Brussels, Belgium – With her emotional plea in the Iraqi parliament she turned the attention of the world community to the genocide in Iraq. Even President Obama was moved by her speech and a short time later started with first aid for the displaced Yezidis on Mount Sinjar.
Vian Dakhil is a lawyer, a politician of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan and a longtime member of the Iraqi parliament. As the daughter of a Yezidi family from Sheikhan, a place in the south of Kurdistan, she felt obliged to represent her community internationally. This is why she came to Brussels on 6 September. Here she could participate in several conferences to discuss, with eminent personalities of the European Union, the continuing horrific situation of refugees in Iraq and Kurdistan. ezidiPress editor Pari Ibrahim met Vian Dakhil on September 10th for an interview.
Mrs. Dakhil, how are you after the helicopter crash? How exactly did it come to this misfortune? The Yezidis had been worried about your health.
“The Yezidis of Sinjar have suffered more than me. We should worry about them. Everyone knew that the people on Mount Sinjar needed help. I got on one of the helicopters to deliver food and water. When we arrived, I was horrified. Those children, the people. If you looked in their eyes you knew how much they suffered. On the television and images you can see the pain, but when you see it with your own eyes you feel their pain. The fear, the suffering, the sight was unbearable. We could only take the elderly and women and children. Everyone came as quickly as they could to the helicopter.
When everyone entered the helicopter, the pilot gave a sign that it was too heavy. We forced some to get out of the helicopter and then we started to fly. But the load was still too heavy. The helicopter went to the left and to the right. I saw that the helicopter was going down. The pilot tried to bring it up again. In a blink of a moment we fell down. With the nose of the helicopter facing the ground, and we crashed.
I didn’t know if I was dead or alive. I felt something very heavy on my leg and it hurt very much. I heard people helping others. I was on the bottom of the helicopter, because my seat was right behind the seat of the pilot. When I realised I was breathing, I tried to call for Dr. Mirza. I said “I’m breathing, I’m alive”. But no response came from Dr. Mirza. A young man tried to grab my hand, but he couldn’t pull me up. My leg and my ribs were broken. Then three young men came and helped me to get out of the helicopter. I needed to hold my leg with my hands. I don’t know these young men, but I thank them from the bottom of my heart. The helicopter fell near a base of ISIS, but we were lucky that the Kurdish forces arrived quickly. Another helicopter came to save us. Unfortunately our pilot died and the rest was lucky to survive.”
What did you feel on the first day, as the IS attacked Shingal?
“I heard the phone ringing at 6 am, I picked it up and heard the bad news that ISIS had taken over Sinjar. I couldn’t believe it. I stood there for three minutes, motionless. Just overthinking what I had heard. I thought about two things. One, shall I go to mount Sinjar and help the people just like everyone else is going to do. Or two, use my position as a member of the Iraqi parliament and raise my voice so that everyone in the world can hear me. I chose the second option, because I am a Yezidi member of the parliament and I should raise my voice for my people. This way I could reach and help more. After two days I went to Baghdad and started to raise awareness and try to get help from all over the world.”
The Peshmerga fled even before the people of Shingal could flee
“It is now known that many of the Peshmerga who should have protected the people of Sinjar fled before the people could flee. We’ve seen that President Barzani has punished a couple of those Peshmerga by suspending them. I was pleased to see that President Barzani took immediate action against these Peshmerga but of course this punishment is not enough. It is beyond my working area, but I myself am going to Kurdistan and demand the punishment of those responsible who left the Yezidi people by themselves. I will speak to the Kurdish government about this, because it is responsible for the Peshmerga. These men must be brought to justice. There has to be an public investigation, everyone has to see how these men get what they deserve. They have to tell the world why they fled, and if they acted negligently, then they deserve to be punished. I’m going to work on this myself.”
What are you trying to achieve here in Belgium?
“I was invited for the “peace is the future” ceremony. Around 150 states are participating. They gave me the time to give a speech. There were around 2000 people at the ceremony. With my speech I showed everyone what the Yezidis needed. I knew that everyone who was there really cared for the Yezidis. I told them that we needed weapons. The Kurds need them, but also the Yezidis. Weapons for the Yezidis, so they can defend themselves. I’ve also mentioned a plan the international community has to pursue in order to help the Yezidis. All together, to stop the suffering of the Yezidi people.”
Is an autonomous status for the region of Shingal possible?
“We could start with an own Yezidi defense force, we have enough young men who can well trained protect the Yezidi people. But we need help from the world to implement this. At this moment, we also need someone who is strong – and that is the Peshmerga, we cannot wait for the help of the Arabs. Until then we have to count on the Kurdish forces.”
Yezidis feel betrayed by their Arab neighbors and do not want to live with them anymore.
“I don’t think that the Arabs will live there after Sinjar will be liberated. Because all the Yezidis know that the Arabs in Sinjar helped ISIS to take over the region. These Arabs have also killed many Yezidi men, children and abducted girls and women. The Yezidis don’t trust them anymore. The Yezidis have suffered too much. They cannot live with the Arabs in one village anymore. The pain for those who lost a mother, father, wife, husband or child will be too great. The situation could escalate into Yezidis and Arabs killing each other once ISIS is gone. The Arabs must leave Sinjar.”
Many Yezidis in Europe want to adopt orphans. What do you think?
“I don’t think we would do them a favour by adopting them. These children have suffered a lot. It is our duty to provide them a peaceful place to live. I am not sure that bringing them to Europe will be the right answer to this problem. We must keep these children among their families and friends. A place they already know. What everyone could do is to take care of a child by providing him or her every month an amount of money until the child becomes 18 years old. This way, the child can live in the place it knows, and still be taken care of. Placing those children in a home with people they don’t know and after all that has happened won’t be good for them. That’s why I’m suggesting this other option. I hope everyone can help and at least take care of one child.”
What can the Yezidis in Europe do for the people of Iraq and in Kurdistan?
“The most important thing is to show the world that we are Yezidis and we stay Yezidi. We must be strong. My message to our young generation, create one organisation for all the Yezidis in Europe. Trough this organisation you can raise money and things for those who need it. And always talk to each other about what’s happening with the Yezidis. Always raise awareness, try to help your people by showing the world who you are. Don’t stop the demonstrations, continue together. Be all one, and you’ll be stronger.