Yazidis gather in Lincoln to remember attacks in Iraq

Aug. 4, 2017, 2:37 a.m. ·

Volunteers at the event wore shirts marking the anniversary of the genocide. (Photo by Noah Johnson, NET News)

Thousands of Yazidi’s, a religious minority in the Middle East, were killed by Islamic State fighters near Sinjar in northwestern Iraq beginning on August 3rd, 2014. Hundreds of thousands more were displaced from their homes. Many came to Lincoln, Nebraska as refugees.

To mark the anniversary of the genocide, members of the Yazidi community gathered in a Lincoln church to remember the tragic events that took place in Iraq and to reaffirm their Yazidi identity.

The event was organized by Nibras Khudaida, a senior at Lincoln North Star High School. Her family moved to the United States in 2015 from Northern Iraq after ISIS invaded in 2014.

Khudaida said her family initially chose to live in Texas, but moved to Nebraska after hearing about Lincoln’s growing Yazidi population.

Lincoln is believed to be home to the largest Yazidi population in the U.S.

“People in Lincoln are getting united,” Khudaida said. “People in Lincoln are really helping each other under this circumstance.”

The unity Khudaida described could be seen as the church filled with those coming to remember the genocide that took place three years ago.

Yazidis have long been a persecuted group. Khudaida said it is important for the Yazidi community to come together and not allow the attacks by ISIS to be forgotten.

“Most of the people who were sitting down yesterday, they know what it means to be there,” Khudaida said. “They remember what happened to them and it’s really important to not forget it.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry also attended the service, saying he was happy the Yazidi community had found a home in Lincoln.

Fortenberry also expressed his concerns for the future of the Middle East, and continuing violence and persecution based on religion.

“If we cannot figure out a way for the ancient faith communities to possibly live in peace once again in the Middle East, I worry that the Middle East has no hope at all,” Fortenberry said.

Fortenberry discussed the possibility of creating safe zones so that those who are forced to flee the region may return one day.

However, Khudaida said that she has no intention of returning to Iraq. Iraq, for her, is filled with memories of days filled without safety or human rights.

“There’s no humanity in there anymore,” Khudaida said. “I don’t like to live in a place where there is no humanity.”

Khudaida says she wants to stay in the United States, where she feels she she can live without having to worry about being mistreated because of their religion.