A protester at the LA demonstration. Photo by author.
LOS ANGELES – American Kurds are publicly condemning the presence of Islamic State (IS/ISIS) forces in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan Region and pleading for more military support and humanitarian relief from the West.
In outrage at the IS treatment of Kurdish Yezidis, the Kurdish Human Rights Advocacy Group (KHRAG) and the Kurdish Community of Southern California organized a joint demonstration of hundreds of people across Los Angeles and San Diego this week.
“Down, down ISIS! Long live Kurdistan!” chanted protestors in LA, gathered before the Federal Bureau of Consular Affairs.
KHRAG issued a statement expressing its own outrage.
“We call on the US government, the United Nations, all relief organizations and Western governments to organize expeditious and efficient emergency humanitarian assistance to Yezidis,” the statement said.
“It is our duty to defend and protect the Yezidis. We cannot let an ancient people and their cultural heritage and religion be vanquished by the dark forces of history,” it added.
The general consensus within the Californian Kurdish community is that IS is a terrorist organization, endorsed by Islamic nations surrounding Kurdistan.
“ISIS is a terrorist organization that is not just threatening Yezidis, Kurds, and Christians, but everybody in the region! They need to be stopped!” said Kurdish American Nyma Ardalan, who attended the LA protest.
IS fighters have reportedly kidnapped hundreds of Yezidi women in recent weeks. It is feared that many have been sexually abused, murdered and reduced to slavery.
“I’m incredibly concerned as a women, but not just because of the IS’s barbaric abuse and viewpoints toward the treatment of women,” said women’s rights activist Clara Moradian, who was also at the demonstration.
“In Nigeria when 250 young women were kidnapped the world was outraged, but I feel like the silence the world is showing towards the women that have been kidnapped now is incredibly disheartening. I want to bring awareness to their plight,” she added.
Many Kurds at the protest believed the United States has a duty toward the Kurdish people because many of the weapons that IS has stolen were supplied to the Iraqi military by the United States.
“A lot of the weapons in the hands of IS are US made,” Moradian noted. “I think the US is responsible and needs to intervene and make sure those weapons aren’t in the hands of terrorists. A lot of Americans don’t realize that they are implicated in this war, as US tax money is going toward destroying Kurdish land.”
Questions have been raised as to whether Peshmerga forces are independently up to the task of defending Kurdistan against the militants.
“Yes they can, but at what cost? They need more international support and arms,” said Ardalan. “My problem is that the Kurds were prevented from getting any significant equipment to battle ISIS; the Iraqi government prevented Kurds form arming themselves.”
Kurdish women’s rights activist Soraya Fallah, who also attended the protest, said: “As a women who is very outspoken against genocide I am really concerned. If any genocides happen on earth I stand with them (the victims) because I’m pro-human rights and I believe we should all feel the same. I believe we should ask for help. We should be united inside Kurdistan. The international community should help us and hear our voice.”
Last week, KHRAG launched a petition addressed to the White House and the UN secretary General. It seeks 500 signatures to raise awareness of the humanitarian aid needed by Kurdish refugees and is half way to achieving its target.