A Conversation with Vian Dakhil | Wilson Center
6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center

A Conversation with Vian Dakhil

Webcast available

Webcast Recap

Vian Dakhil, the only Yazidi Member of Parliament in Iraq, discussed the plight of the Yazidi people since the attack by ISIS in the summer of 2014.

On December 9, 2014, the Middle East Program and Global Women’s Leadership Initiative of the Woodrow Wilson Center, United States Agency for International Development, United States Institute of Peace, and the Dialogue Institute at Temple University hosted an event “A Conversation with Vian Dakhil” with Dakhil, Member of Parliament in Iraq. Jane Harman, Director, President, and CEO of the Wilson Center, provided opening remarks. Haleh Esfandiari, Director of the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center, moderated the event.

Harman opened the event by discussing how ISIS’s assault on the Yazidi community encouraged the United States to become reengaged in Iraq. She stressed that the United States still needs to do more to help the different groups and ethnic communities threatened by ISIS. Esfandiari initiated the discussion with Dakhil by inquiring about the current situation on Mt. Sinjar, where many Yazidis remain trapped and vulnerable to ISIS.

Dakhil explained that there are now 1,200 families on Mt. Sinjar—roughly 6,000 to 7,000 people—struggling to survive with insufficient shelter, food, and supplies as winter approaches. She implored that humanitarian aid is needed immediately and that the Yazidis must be transferred to safe areas like Kurdistan as ISIS closes in on the mountain. This transfer cannot be done on the ground and therefore has to be done with helicopters, which can only carry 25 people at a time. With the Iraqi government only able to allocate four helicopters to assisting the Yazidis, she stressed that they need further help from the international community. Overall, Dakhil believes that the United States must do more to help, especially since the Iraqi government does not have the capacity to do so. She described the poor conditions within the refugee camps, where she says United Nations efforts are ineffective and the tents do not provide safety and proper shelter.

Esfandiari then asked Dakhil to describe how ISIS behaves when entering a town. Dakhil said the jihadists force the Yazidis to convert to Islam or be killed, and then kidnap the women and children, taking them as property and raping and selling them. According to Dakhil, 5,000 Yazidi women and children are now in captivity. She explained the Yazidis are treated this way because they are not “people of the book” like other minority groups in the region; people from other groups are killed rather than kidnapped. Dakhil revealed that ISIS utilizes the weapons left behind by the Iraqi army and fights until they are killed, which is a mentality that has been met without resistance.

During the question portion of the event, Dakhil explained that while it is important to receive support from the Iraqi parliament, the crisis is urgent and, thus, she is acting separately by campaigning for foreign governments to help the kidnapped Yazidis. Working as a Yazidi rather than a member of parliament, she wants to help escaped Yazidis get their life back to normal and improve conditions in the refugee camps. She discussed the rescue operation on Mt. Sinjar, revealing how many Yazidis chose to stay behind because their families had already been kidnapped, they were unable to walk, or they thought ISIS would retreat in a few days. Dakhil further highlighted how the Iraqi government’s capacity for support is limited and that help must come more from the United States and the Kurdish government.

By John Daniels, Middle East Program

 
 

Speakers