A Brave Lady’s Fight Against ISIS

Vian Dakhil (Reuters photo: Lucas Jackson)
Vian Dakhil, Yazidi parliamentarian

There are millions of videos floating around the Internet, of various kinds. Like you, I have seen many of these videos. And I suppose the most moving one I have ever seen is of Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament. In August 2014, she pleaded for help against ISIS, who were raping and destroying her people. She explained this. Then she said, “Save us, save us,” until she collapsed.

Dakhil was a guest at the Oslo Freedom Forum earlier this year. She gave a presentation, which began with the showing of that video. To see the presentation — and, of course, the video that leads it — go here.

I spoke to her a day or two before her presentation. There are about 1.2 million Yazidis in the world, she said. They are spread between several countries, or regions: Iraq, Syria, Kurdistan, the former USSR . . . There is also a substantial immigrant community in Germany now.

They are an ancient people, the Yazidis. And there have been 73 genocide campaigns against them, says Dakhil. The latest, of course, is the one by ISIS.

It began in 2014. ISIS descended on the Yazidis. Those who could flee, fled. Younger people carried their elderly parents on their back. Often, they could not get very far. ISIS slaughtered the men (and others). They kidnapped and enslaved the girls and women, raping them. Little girls were raped in front of their parents. Etc., etc.

The usual depravity that mankind exhibits, and always has.

In her presentation, Dakhil showed a film of ISIS terrorists selling girls, in an auction. Why does this film exist? ISIS itself made it, in order to recruit volunteers. In order to entice them.

Many years ago, Anthony Daniels, the British doctor and writer, told me that the main reason so many young men were attracted to radical Islam had nothing to do with religion. It was the subjugation of women, especially for sexual purposes. As the years have gone by, I have seen the truth of this, more and more.

In 2014 (August), ISIS had tens of thousands of Yazidis trapped in the Sinjar Mountains. They were starving. The ISIS men were waiting them out. The only way to reach the Yazidis was by helicopter, and Vian Dakhil undertook a rescue mission (by helicopter). She and others distributed food and water. Yet they also tried to take some of the people away, to safety. These were children, the aged, and the sick.

Flying away, the helicopter crashed, because it was carrying too much weight. The pilot died. Many others were injured, including Dakhil.

She is doing better now, she tells me. At night, however, she sometimes feels severe pain.

I will not say too much more about the hell and depravity to which the Yazidis have been subjected. You can watch Dakhil’s presentation, if you like. But I will say one thing — a horrible thing — and please skip it, if you like. I will tell it in the next few paragraphs, and then I will have interview excerpts, which will be bullet-pointed.

ISIS had a female prisoner — a young mother — whom they starved for two days. On the third day, they gave her some food: some kind of meat, which satisfied her. Then they told her she had just eaten the flesh of her son, 18 months old.

About a month after hearing this, I was reading The Feast of the Goat, Mario Vargas Llosa’s novel of the Trujillo dictatorship (in the Dominican Republic). Trujillista sadists do the exact same thing in the novel. I have no doubt it happened in real life.

I have studied many dictatorships and terror movements. They do the same things, in every corner of the earth: electric shocks on genitals, etc. Genitals are a constant fixation.

Now, some excerpts from my interview with Vian Dakhil:

‐She was born in 1971, to a Yazidi family in Mosul. She would grow up there, in Mosul. Her actual last name is Saeed. Dakhil is her father’s name — but she is known to the world as “Vian Dakhil.” She has a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, and a master’s degree in immunology.

I ask her a question about identity. “Do you feel Iraqi?” She answers, “I am Yazidi, Kurdish, and Iraqi.” In that order? Yes, in that order.

Different Yazidis have different views of their identity. Many consider themselves Yazidi only.

‐Dakhil did not seek out politics, but politics sought out her. In 2007, she was teaching at a university in Mosul, and terrorists began to menace the city and her students. The Kurdish government asked her to take special responsibility for the minorities (such as the Yazidis). And thus began her political career.

‐Who were those terrorists? Al-Qaeda, she says. I tell her something: “Al-Qaeda, ISIS — I don’t care what you call them, or what they call themselves. They’re all the same to me.” That’s right, she answers. They are like reptiles, she says, that shed their skin. Periodically, they have a new skin and a new name, but it’s the same terrorist animal.

‐About 6,700 Yazidi girls and women were kidnapped by ISIS. “We were able to rescue 3,000 of them,” Dakhil says. How? And who is “we”? By “we,” she means the Kurdish government, and what they did was buy back the girls and women from ISIS. The others are still in captivity.

But ISIS is on its way out in that part of the world. So, as a consequence, is the assault on the Yazidis.

‐“The Yazidis have lost their trust in everyone, even their neighbors,” says Dakhil. “They don’t trust anyone anymore” — which is entirely understandable.

‐I ask Dakhil whether she favors the breakup of Iraq. What she favors is a confederation, she says. “The best solution for the country is to be like the Emirates: small states in one bigger state, where the small states have their own rules and characteristics.” “Would Baghdad have the final say?” I ask. Yes, says Dakhil.

And how many regions or statelets should there be? Dakhil says, “Kurdistan, and a region for the Sunnis, and a region for the Shiites, and Baghdad, alone.”

‐I tell her I’m going to ask what may be an insulting question: Is the Iraqi parliament a real parliament or a pretend one? “It’s an actual parliament,” she says, “and we are working, but the problems in the country are greater than we are.”

‐What can the U.S. do for the Yazidis? Three things, she says: Give us “cover security” (physical security, protection from the wolves). Provide humanitarian help. And prevail on the United Nations to designate what ISIS has done a genocide.

‐Finally, I ask her what she would like people to know. “We are fighting ISIS,” she says. “We are fighting the terrorists and the ideology. We are paying the price. But these terrorists and this ideology spread very quickly. If we don’t work together, they will arrive in Oslo and Paris and Berlin and everywhere else. We must unite against it. We must stand together.”


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