Who Will Save the Yazidis?

Who Will Save the Yazidis?
Kurdish fighters preparing to retake Sinjar from the Islamic State, Iraq, Nov. 13, 2015 (AP photo by Bram Janssen).

The United Nations took a historic step earlier this month, for the first time naming a victim of human trafficking as a goodwill ambassador for the dignity of survivors of such atrocities. Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a 23-year-old Yazidi woman who survived months of captivity as a sex slave of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, was appointed to the position at a ceremony at U.N. headquarters in New York. She gives an international voice to the brutalized young women and children of the Yazidi religious minority, the victims of barbarity and sexual enslavement in northern Iraq.

Murad’s new role provides some real hope that the U.N. will now be able to push the international community into action to help Yazidis. One of her top priorities will be to focus an international effort on securing the release of more than 3,200 Yazidi women and girls still held captive by the Islamic State.

When the extremist group invaded the Sinjar Mountains in northern Iraq in August 2014, a multilayered human tragedy unfolded. Thousands of Yazidis were slaughtered and an estimated 400,000 were driven from their homes. At least 5,000 young women and girls, some as young as eight, were abducted and trafficked as sex slaves. Tens of thousands fled into the mountains, where the militants surrounded them in the searing desert heat of the Iraqi summer. The United States, Iraq, the United Kingdom, France and Australia airdropped water and other supplies, but many Yazidis died before they could be rescued.

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