A year after U.S. airstrikes and Kurdish fighters saved Iraq’s Yazidi population from death at the hands of ISIS atop Mount Sinjar, the historic religious enclave is facing death in its homeland and a cold shoulder from America.
FOX News Despite the ongoing threat of execution in Iraq, nearly all Yazidis, a Kurdish monotheistic community that lives throughout Iraq, Syria, Turkey and even Armenia and Georgia, who have applied for asylum in the U.S. have been rejected, FoxNews.com has learned. The reason why is not clear, but advocates say Washington is turning a blind eye on the situation.
“What we are seeing, in real time, is genocide,” said Frank Wolf, a former congressman from Virginia and senior fellow at 21st Century Wilberforce, a nonprofit that seeks to protect Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East. “To declare it genocide, that would expedite relief. You can’t allow it to go on.”
The Yazidi religion includes elements of ancient nature-worship, as well as influences from Christianity, Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, Islam and Judaism.
Of the tens of thousands of Yazidis uprooted from their homes, only 10 families have been granted asylum in the U.S., according to Yazda, an American-based Yazidi advocacy group. None of the visas were issued due to religious persecution faced at the hands of ISIS.
“None of these families [in U.S.] are related to the crisis,” Abid Shamden, who works with Yadza, told FoxNews.com, adding that the visas were given as part of a special program for translators who worked with the U.S. military during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. “But many are still there. They are not given any special status. They are all treated as the same. My family has been waiting since 2012 for visas.”
Shamden’s colleague added that several families who sought help under the translator program have even been denied. Officials for the State Department declined to comment, saying specific cases involving visas are confidential.
Many members of the religious minorities in Iraq and Syria — Yazidi or otherwise — have been seeking asylum in the U.S. since ISIS launched its violent offensive, carving out a caliphate the size of Indiana in northern Syria and Iraq. But the process is arduous, and often fruitless, say experts.
For the past six months, 27 Iraqi Christian asylum seekers fleeing the Islamic State (ISIS) have been locked up in an ICE detention center in Otay Mesa, CA, despite the fact that 20 of the 27 Chaldean Christians have American family members living in Southern California who are willing to sponsor them.
The Yazidi plight is similar to that of Chaldeans, an ancient Christian population routed from its historic home in Iraq. At the outset of the Iraq War in 2003, there were nearly 1.4 million Christians in the country. Estimates today say the total is likely fewer than 250,000.