Protecting My Roots by Ahmed Khudida Burjus – Deputy Executive Director, Yazda.

Ahmed_Khudida_Burjus
Image: Nadia Murad and Yazda deputy executive director Ahmed Khudida Burjus (left), met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in December 2015 after Ms Murad spoke at the UN Security Council’s first-ever session on human trafficking in armed conflict.

I was studying at get my masters degree at University of Nottingham with only two months left in the program when ISIS attacked my town in Iraq, Sinjar, on August 3, 2014. Early in the morning, I received countless calls from family and friends explaining that ISIS was attacking the Yazidis, a Kurdish religious minority in northern Iraq,  killing men and kidnapping women and children. Tens of thousands were trapped on the rocky Sinjar Mountain, and thousands of Yazidis were at risk of dying of hunger and thirst.

The world was spinning and to me, this all felt more like a harrowing dream than reality. I couldn’t believe what was going on, and my mind was filled with questions. Why this was happening to my innocent people? Why was no one was helping them? What could someone like me – far away on a different continent – do to help?

The situation for the thousands trapped on the mountain was quickly deteriorating into a human rights crisis. ISIS was conducting mass abductions of women and children after executing men and young boys on the spot. We learned about the harrowing treatment of Yazidi girls and women through phone calls with them, during which we learned that ISIS was systematically selling and raping the girls, labeling them as “Sabaya” or ‘’Slaves’’and treating them as such.

I, just like so many others of the diaspora, was unable to do anything but speak up and ask the world to take action. I took the threat to my community as a threat to me and my family in the United Kingdom, as well as an egregious human rights violation against my people,  who had done nothing wrong. I could not remain silent in face of the injustice, oppression and evil that ISIS was committing against my people and many other desperate communities in Iraq and Syria.

A group of us of the diaspora established a collaborative team that later grew into Yazda, a multinational humanitarian and advocacy organization based primarily in the United States and the United Kingdom.

At Yazda, we have worked relentlessly for justice for the victims of the Yazidi Genocide and other vulnerable groups in Iraq and Syria.  We advocate around the world for their rights, and provide humanitarian, psychosocial, medical and educational support to tens of thousands of survivors.

Working with Yazda has also brought me to work with survivors such as UN goodwill ambassador Nadia Murad , Yazidi Activist Fareeda Abbas, with Mrs. Amal Clooney, Yazda’s legal counsel, and many advocates for human rights across the globe.

 

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