Taiwan donated $500,000 to an initiative launched by Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, a survivor of the Islamic State’s attempted genocide of the Yazidi people of Iraq, on Friday to be used in helping Yazidis rebuild their homeland.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the Islamic State (ISIS) had been “100 percent” defeated in Syria in March, nearly two years after its defeat in Iraq. Iraq’s northern Sinjar region, however, remains devastated, littered with terrorist traps and with little to no access to utilities like water and electricity – leaving much of the Yazidi population stranded in makeshift camps built to shelter them from ISIS’s assault.
Taiwan’s donation is meant to show that the island nation is “more than willing, ready, and able to help” recovery efforts in Iraq following the demise of the terrorist group’s caliphate. Representative of the Republic of China in the United States Stanley Kao told those congregated at an event at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) Friday to grant Murad the funding. The money will go to her organization, Nadia’s Initiative, and its subsidiary the Sinjar Action Fund (SAF), which is dedicated to the reconstruction of the Yazidi heartland.
“As a proud member of the global coalition [against the Islamic State], my government welcomes the continued significant progress made in liberating territories previously controlled by ISIS. However, victory in combat is only part of the story,” Kao said, adding that Taiwan was ready to join in “making every effort” to rebuild what ISIS had destroyed.
“Taiwan is a responsible member of the international society, and we believe we are doing the right thing … and working with like-minded countries, the United States, and international NGOs … even if it’s a small amount of contribution, it shows really a big heart on the part of our government and our citizens,” Kao told Breitbart News following his remarks at the event.
“This is such an important initiative, and we felt and we want to be part of this endeavor … it takes a village. It takes a community to get the job done. So this is just a small first step,” Kao added.
Murad, issuing remarks on her own and then in a question and answer session at the event, thanked Taiwan for the funding and emphasized the “existential threat” that groups such as the Islamic State pose to the Middle East’s minorities.
“Minorities like Yazidis and Christians and others in that region are facing many challenges and slowly disappearing from that region,” Murad said. “Many families of the Yazidi community are still facing what happened to them in 2014 … I have two nephews that are still missing in captivity so far.”
Murad noted during the question and answer session that many Yazidis refused to become refugees, and many others returned home immediately, showing a will on the part of the community to rebuild. “Many Yazidis did not leave, many fled to Mount Sinjar and stayed there,” she noted. “When the areas were liberated … around 80,000 Yazidis returned home,” she said.
The aid that her group provides, she continued, is meant to encourage other minorities to return and rebuild following the Islamic State sieges. “When those in the camps see that those that have returned home have not received the support they need, they will not return home,” she warned.
The Obama administration eventually joined much of the world in describing what happened to the Yazidis, and Christians, of Iraq during 2014-2016 as a “genocide.” ISIS terrorists were especially cruel to the Yazidi minority, who they considered “devil worshippers” because their religion proscribes the worship of an angel who fell to earth to rule it, who the jihadists consider Lucifer. During the siege of Sinjar in 2014, ISIS jihadis went door-to-door killing Yazidi men, forcing the women and girls into sex slavery, and brainwashing the children into suicide bombings against their own people.
During the summer of 2014, the siege of Sinjar city forced Yazidis to choose between attempting to flee the city on the ground, an option that likely ended in death or slavery, or fleeing up Mount Sinjar with no food or water in the scorching heat. At the height of the siege, as many as 40,000 people chose the mountain, many dying of starvation or dehydration. Iraq’s only Yazidi member of parliament, Vian Dakhil, personally joined a helicopter rescue mission to the mountain that failed because the crew tried to board too many children off the mountain. Dakhil broke both of her legs.
Murad, originally from Sinjar, spent three months in Islamic State sex slavery and lost a significant portion of her family. She escaped in 2014 after being sold several times among the jihadis and began working to raise awareness for the atrocity committed against her people. Following the demise of the jihadist group, Murad has focused on restoring Sinjar, helping the community rebuild and revive in a hostile climate. This month, Nineveh province, where Sinjar is located, suffered large wildfires that destroyed crops, threatening the population’s survival, and burned several ISIS mass graves, adding insult to injury. Many Yazidis have expressed to international media that they wish to return home, but have found no safe way to do so.
The government of Taiwan has been a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, an American-led operation, since October 2014. According to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), Taiwan’s humanitarian aid contributions have gone into de-mining efforts in formerly ISIS-occupied areas, temporary housing for the internally displaced, and the establishment of a mobile hospital. Taiwan’s efforts have helped refugees and internally displaced persons outside of Iraq in Syria, Jordan, and Turkey.
Kristina Wong contributed to this report.