By Elias Kasem, Yezidi activist from the U.S.
For the last seven months, as a Yezidi, I have struggled fiercely to bring unity to our Yezidi communities in the US and Canada. My work is far from being over but luckily and most gratefully I am walking this path with great Yezidi activists who have refused to give up hope or unity since day one. These activists are the true fighters behind the scene on this vast battlefield. We are all saying unequivocally – we are not giving up hope.
Many people may say Hope is a given of sorts, intrinsic to every human being. Many will also say Hope is not necessary to achieve unity. But it was hope that started the American Revolution, and it was hope that kept many Jews alive during the Holocaust. It has been hope all along and yet we, Yezidis, seem to have given up even before we started.
Why cry that the world is silent and indifferent when we sit back and do nothing to save our own? Why expect any help from external powers when unity is so scarce and so hard to achieve amongst us? We as Yezidis must not forget some important points: Our kidnapped girls and women still have hope; our orphans put their trust in us to teach them hope; and our mothers and fathers look at us as their last and only hope. We have no right to shake off this heavy responsibility and trust our kith and keen have placed in us.
As Yezidis we always look back into history and mention the names of great Yezidi leaders and warriors who fought defiantly against the invaders who brought nothing but destruction to our communities. We proudly mention people like Ezidi Mirza, Dawood Dawood, and Darwesh Avdi, who became symbols of Yezidi defiance of oppression. Holding onto these heroic stories of the past, we seem to forget that every single one of you have the potential to be a great leader and to make significant changes, but great leadership on its own is effective only when it is built on strong foundations of unity, humility, dignity, and above all hope, all of which comprise the pillars of Yezidi faith. Let future generations not mention only one name from this particular time in our Yezidi history. In this hour of trial, with Yezidis undergoing their darkest of hours, let us not wait in vain for the appearance of a mythical hero. Let us create a new myth of unity and togetherness for the generations to come. Let these future Yezidis take pride in a determined generation of Yezidis, in an age only seldom praises unity, who decided not to deposit the faith of the Yezidi community in the hands of others, of non-Yezidis. Let future Yezidi generations remember our unity, humbleness, selfless service and victory, with pride. Yezidis never gave up on Hope, and we do not have the historical right to do so, either.
August 3, 2014, marked a historic low for our community, leaving many dead and injured, and hundreds of thousands of others homeless, captive and orphaned. And in our hours of darkness, only god knows how hard we wished we had someone, anyone, to hold our hands, as our communal house collapsed on our heads.
That house is ours; that land is ours; Mount Sinjar is yours. Now it is time for us to act for our own and take back and to fight, peacefully but determinedly, for what is rightfully ours. Do not forget the children who died of hunger, thirst and dehydration on top of Mount Sinjar in August. Do not forget our women who are still in IS hands, tortured, enslaved, and raped every day and every hour. Will we let others die of thirst again? Will we let our women die in captivity? Do we have the luxury to stand by and allow others to write our future for us? To expel us from our forefathers lands?
I categorically refuse to accept that. This is the time for us to stand up as one and leave everything behind. Only unity and hope will allow us to make claims as to our community’s future. Only unity in the face of evil will force the world to confront this evil with us in the utmost fierceness and determination. Unity is the weapon of the weak in the face of the oppressor and only humanity, peace and compassion will turn us from a collection of weakened individuals to a victorious front, and from Yezidis to the Yezidi people. We have nothing more to lose now, but our last castle – our hope, which is the spring of our unity.