The Yazidis are a distinct minority in Iraq, with only 500,000 adherents and no converts — one has to be born into the religion in order to belong to it. The Islamic State, the terrorist group that is now sweeping across Iraq, call the Yazidis “devil worshippers” and have specifically targeted them for slaughter. This has compelled Yazidi families to seek refuge in the Sinjar mountains in the north of the country.
Vian Dakhil is the only member of the Iraqi parliament who belongs to the Yazidi religious group. Last week, she told her government “30,000 families have been besieged in the Sinjar mountains, with no water and no food. Seventy children have already died of thirst and elderly people have also died. Women are being slaughtered, our entire religion is being wiped off the face of the Earth. I am begging you, in the name of humanity.”
Vian Dakhil’s pleas have attracted the attention of the Vatican, which has called for “concrete humanitarian assistance” and “political and even effective military protection” for religious minorities. The Vatican condemned both the 2003 Iraq War and the 1991 Gulf War. Their unprecedented support for military action ought to call attention to the unique nature of this crisis and the need to intervene.
But Dakhil’s words have fallen on deaf ears among many in the United States.
On August 9, the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial titled “Why are we back in Iraq?” The article argued the president had no business launching even a limited military strike in Iraq, no matter how “[d]istressing and tragic as recent event in Iraq may be.” Their opinion can be found in a number of other quarters, many of whom lament that the United States ever got involved in Iraq in the first place. Indeed, the president’s actions are drawing criticism from both the left and the right. Many conservatives argue that none of this would have been necessary had the president not been so eager to pull all troops out of Iraq without leaving any behind to support the fledgling government.
That may well be true, but, at this point, it’s also irrelevant.
There is no value in rearguing the merits of America’s involvement in the Iraq War, which seems to be the focus of many of the critics. We can’t change what happened then, and what’s happening now is a staggering humanitarian and geopolitical crisis brewing in that region. The Yazidis and other minorities will be wiped out if no one is willing to help them. America can’t just turn a blind eye to that.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company