30 September 2016

‘We want to go home, and we want to be safe’

By Prince Tahseen Saeed Ali

There can’t be many people in the world who have not heard something about the plight of the Yazidis over the last few years.

The terrible campaign of violence and terror waged against my people, the kidnap and enslavement of our young women and girls, has been headline news for two summers now.

There are still more than 3,500 girls being held by the ISIS thugs we call Daesh, some as young as nine years old. Their suffering can only be imagined. Those that have already managed to escape have told the most terrible stories.

Almost half a million Yazidis are now forced to live as refugees in their own land, eking out a miserable existence in the sprawling Internationally Displaced Persons camps of Northern Iraq. They are all desperate to go home to rebuild and resume their previous lives, but it’s still not possible.

At least we now have hope that ISIS are at long last facing defeat. The combined forces of the Iraqis and their allies are rapidly destroying the wicked so-called Caliphate, and it’s believed an assault on their last big stronghold, Mosul, is just weeks away.

Led by me, a delegation of Yazidis has just visited the UK at the invitation of the Conservative Peer Baroness Nicholson’s AMAR International Charitable Foundation to take part in a major international conference.


The purpose of the event, held in the majestic splendour of Windsor Castle, was to begin the process of persuading other monotheist religions, such as our Muslim fellow countrymen and neighbours, to accept the existence and legitimacy of the Yazidi faith.

Eminent speakers from around the world attended the conference, all analysing why religious persecution has been a driver for forced migration for centuries.

It was just the start, and the talking will continue for a long time after this, but it was a good solid beginning. It also gave the Yazidi delegation a chance to work out what we need from the international community in the short term to help us begin the comparatively short journey home to Sinjar and the Nineveh Plain.

First and foremost, we want the international community to provide a military protection force to help us do this. We will never feel safe again unless United Nations soldiers are deployed.

As far back as I can remember there has been tension between the minority communities – the Yazidis, Christians, Shabaks, Turkmen – and some of the Arab tribes. Of course many were good neighbours and friends. But some of the tribes allied with Daesh (ISIS) when they invaded. How can we ever trust these people again?

Our other principal demand is that we want the town of Sinjar to become a province under the control of the Kurdish Regional Government. All towns and villages in the Ninevah Plain should also become a province of the KRG. Both would be run by Yazidis and the other minorities for the common good.

Finally, many of our towns and villages have been virtually destroyed by the fighting. Even if a building remains standing, Daesh have stripped it bare, taking anything of value or use.

We need help to rebuild and replace.

Baroness Nicholson has assured me that the AMAR Foundation is determined to support us. They have launched their Help Yazidis Home Appeal to raise money to pay for the reconstruction or refitting of health clinics, schools and village halls.

With the support of the international community, I am confident the Yazidis, one of the world’s most ancient religions, have a good, solid future. We can look forward again and not backwards. With luck, the nightmare that all our people have suffered will slowly fade.

Prince Tahseen Saeed Ali, leader of the Yazidi, was talking to Robert Cole.