Omaha World Herald: Yazidi journalists share stories of ethnic violence in Iraq during visit with Fortenberry

Sep 13, 2019
In The News

The group of Yazidi journalists shared stories of the horrific violence their community in Iraq has suffered at the hands of ISIS.

They spoke of men killed, women and children kidnapped and ransomed back to their families for large sums.

“Unfortunately, this is the bitter reality that we are living in,” one said through an interpreter.

The group was visiting with Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., in his Capitol Hill office Wednesday as part of a State Department international leadership program.

Fortenberry represents one of the largest concentrations of Yazidis in the United States. Many arrived in the United States after working as translators for the U.S. military in Iraq.

The Lincoln lawmaker successfully pushed the State Department several years ago to label as “genocide” the violence against Yazidis, Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

He told the visitors Wednesday how his guest at this year’s State of the Union address was Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, who escaped from ISIS and has become a spokesperson not just for the human rights of Yazidis but of all.

 

The journalists spoke of their desire to share stories of the ethnic violence in an effort to prevent it from happening again.

“In the past, when our grandparents or great-grandparents, they were telling us that the Yazidis had been in the past subjected to genocide, but we couldn’t believe it, we couldn’t understand it because there was nothing written, nothing documented,” one of the journalists told him through the interpreter.

 

The journalists asked what the United States can do to help the many Yazidis who are currently displaced or still being held for ransom.

Fortenberry talked about economic aid going to the region but also stressed that stabilization will depend on improving the security situation.

That includes persuading the central Iraqi government to fully integrate the Yazidis into its security forces so they can protect themselves. Fortenberry noted that he has sponsored a resolution calling for that to happen.

But he said it’s critical that the international community be reminded of their plight.

“You as journalists have to continue to tell this story,” he told them. “It’s easy for the world to forget, to move on.”

 

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