The Dialogue Institute, led by Board Chair Majid Alsayegh, hosted Iraqi Member of Parliament and Yazidi representative, Vian Dakhil, for a nine-day tour in the United States, December 9-17, 2014, to help call attention to the humanitarian crisis facing the Yazidi people in Iraq.
She received international attention last summer for her impassioned plea on the floor of the Iraqi Parliament on behalf of Yazidis, tens of thousands of whom were stranded in the mountains of Mt. Sinjar as they attempted to flee ISIS militants.
During the tour, with stops in Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C., she met with U.S. Senators, key White House personnel, members of the U.S. Department of State, USAID representatives and members of the media. A highlight of her visit was the opportunity to share testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women's Issues (see full testimony at foreign.senate.gov hearings/120914am).
Speaking to Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator Rand Paul and other delegates, Dakhil gave a moving account of the atrocities suffered by the Yazidi people at the hands of the “so-called Islamic State.” She described her commitment to her people, and her tireless work to bring awareness of their plight to influential leaders worldwide. The hearing concluded with an earnest plea for U.S. aid – both in the short term to assist the Yazidi refugees with the supplies needed to sustain themselves through the harsh winter months, and long-term assistance in establishing peace in the region.
During her White House visit, Dakhil was able to outline her primary aid requests to the assembly. These included help in freeing the women held by ISIS, support in helping the women survivors of ISIS crimes, assistance for the families still trapped on Mt. Sinjar, and improved delivery and quality of humanitarian aid to the refugees in Kurdistan.
Dakhil and her sister, Dr. Deelan Dakhil, were given a tour of the National Cathedral and offered an opportunity to say a prayer for the Yazidi people at the Cathedral. Canon Precentor Gina Campbell was pleased to recognize and host this visit as it was the first time that the Yazidi faith had been recognized and honored at the Cathedral. In a fitting end to her stay in Washington, D.C., Dakhil visited the Holocaust Museum and participated in a round-table discussion upon completion of the tour. Bearing witness to the genocide of the Holocaust provided a common discussion point as Dakhil correlated these past atrocities with those being committed against the Yazidi people today.
Dakhil then traveled to Philadelphia, where she met with members of the Board of Directors and staff of the DI, and visited the Museum of Tolerance with a program involving survivors of genocide.
Dakhil’s trip concluded with a visit to New York City and a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Samantha Powers at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, as well as an interview with Al Jazeera, the Qatar- based television broadcast network.
“All I see as the girls return are tears. They have difficulty even speaking but tell us ‘They ruined us.’ They return with nothing, not even shoes, only memories of the horrors that they have endured, leaving them mentally and physically damaged.” These words from an eyewitness to Yazidi women who managed to flee their ISIS captors are what motivate Dakhil to continue her awareness campaign to bring help and hope to her people.
To date, the Dialogue Institute also helped raise more than $6,500 in support of Dakhil's ongoing humanitarian efforts in Iraq.