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Zainab Bangura, "Mother" of the Yezidis

28 June 2016 at 03:28 | 1177 views

Madam Zainab Bangura, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict recently met with Mr. Mahma Khalil Qasim, Administrator of Sinjar and Mr. Saido Jato Haso, Member of Ninewa Provincial Council, both representing the Yezidi community.

They came to her office to thank her for all the work she had done since April last year to highlight to the world what ISIS had done to the Yezidi community. She made her first visit to the Middle East last year in April.

The visit took her Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq in 10 days. In Iraq, She visited Baghdad to meet with the Prime Minister, Government Ministers, Members of Parliament, religious leaders, women’s groups and UN colleagues.

From Baghdad, she flew to Erbil, which is the headquarters of the Kurdistan regional government, met with the regional Prime Minister and various regional government functionaries. She then drove to Dohuk and to Lalish to meet with the Yezidi community, their Spritual leader, visit their temple and met and spoke to the women and girls, who had been captured by ISIS and had fled or managed to escape or bought back by their community.

Zainab Bangura has travelled across the world dealing with the Yezidi problem for almost for years. She said the visit was heart-breaking, "but has lifted me to engage in advocacy efforts for the Yezidi in a way I never could have imagined I was capable of."

Zainab continued:

" I learnt first-hand, through horrific accounts from Yezidi women and girl survivors, of the pain and suffering from sexual violence committed by ISIL they had endured. Over 5000 Yezidi girls and women had been kidnapped and taken away. Thousands more of their men had been killed and hundreds of their sons were unaccounted for. I came back to New York with a lot of determination to tell the story of the Yezidis. I promised them that I will be their voice."

" Within a period of three months after my return, I gave 35 interviews to television and radio stations across all five continents starting with key cable television stations in the US. I wrote letters to all Foreign Ministers of the anti-ISIS coalition explaining the systematic use of sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism by ISIS on the Yezidis, to ensure that curbing financial flows to extremist groups not only focuses on the sale of oil and antiquities, but also on the use of sexual slavery and human trafficking, and priority be given to victims of sexual violence especially the Yezidi in asylum processes."

" I visited Canada to address a technical meeting of the anti-ISIS coalition. My advocacy campaign took me to various European capitals to engage the political leadership. I held a meeting with the Prosecutor and judges of the ICC to look at accountability mechanisms for crimes committed against the Yezidi, and even visited Egypt to hold discussions with the Grand Imam of the Alzad University to encourage him to counter the fatwa issued by the leader of ISIS justifying what they have done to the Yezidi."

"Since my visit to the Yezidi, I have received many of their representatives who have come to my office to thank me, to hug me and to tell me how grateful they are for what I have done for their community. Each one of them including the two officers few days ago have nicknamed me the "mother" of the Yezidi. If there is one thing I will take away with me in this job, is what I have been able to do to contribute to support the Yezidis, to use my voice, my position to not only tell their story but to help in representing them and to contribute to shape the international discourse on the crimes against them. The little girls I have met are so pretty and so innocent. The Yezidi are less or a little over a million people worldwide, but they are very close-knit and they work together as a team and very protective of each other. Our biggest priority is to work with them and to look for the missing girls who have been sold to far away countries. They are determined to find their girls wherever they are and to bring them back home. Whatever it takes we will support them with our voice, our pens and our offices."