Written by Dave, family and all the Free Burma and Free Kurdistan Rangers
We recently returned from hearings on Burma, Kurdistan and Sudan with members of the U.S. Congress, the State Department and the Pentagon.
Our focus was joint hearings on the situation of ISIS and how to help Kurd and Yazidi people under attack. Our main message was that it is morally imperative to stop the oppression of ISIS and to rescue the thousands of captive girls and women held as sex slaves and it is morally right to start by driving ISIS out of Kurdistan, Northern Iraq.
It is tactically right to do so now, as the longer we wait the more dug in, confident and prepared ISIS becomes. Strategically, inaction allows ISIS to resupply and build up their forces and logistical infrastructure. Geopolitically, inaction gains ISIS more recruits and gives them more perceived legitimacy and control over their areas. The U.S. cannot do everything, but we do have the ability and opportunity to rescue people in captivity and stop ISIS, starting in Kurdistan, Northern Iraq.
We testified along with a Yazidi girl who had been captured by ISIS from Sinjar (where we were for part of the Kurd relief mission). Tina Ramirez and her team at the advocacy group Hardwired facilitated the Yazidi women?s visit to Washington D.C.
The young Yazidi woman we testified with was held and raped for five months before escaping, and described rapes and murders of hundreds that she had seen with her own eyes; she appealed for help for the over 3,000 other girls she knew of who were still held as sex slaves by ISIS. Her testimony brought people to tears and her call for help was heartrending and powerful. We added to what she said by giving context and photos, videos and personal experience to show what ISIS is doing (see a video about our mission there on our website at free burma rangers and also on burma rangers YouTube. With her, we appealed for direct assistance to the Kurds to help them survive and to drive ISIS out of Kurdistan and rescue all in captivity. We also asked for help in every area of need, including Syria and the Kurds and other people there.
On our relief mission to Kurdistan (in partnership with ReLoad Love and All Things Possible Ministries) we heard many stories of loss and pain and one struck me the most. During a children?s program with Yazidi Kurd IDPs on Sinjar Mountain, we talked with a man who was providing security for the IDPs. He was a Yazidi IDP himself and he and others with him told us that when ISIS attacked his hometown of Sinjar, he was away and his mother, father and 1-year-old baby were captured. He was distraught but said, ?What can I do? My baby, along with thousands of others, is being held far way from Sinjar, deep in ISIS-controlled territory. There they live like slaves. The boys are trained and brainwashed to grow up to join ISIS and the girls are used for sex. If I go and try to break through ISIS lines to get her back, I will be killed quickly. Then my family will have no father, my wife no husband and my baby will still be captured.? Tears came to his eyes as he spoke but he refused to cry and said his only hope was in God. I had no response except to hug him and tell him that God did care and that his hope was real. I prayed right then with him that God would give us a miracle and that his baby would be returned to him this month. That is my prayer and my hope.
This is only one of the thousands of stories of human misery and injustice, of lives lost and a sense of hopelessness. This is only one appeal from one young father to stop ISIS and liberate his home so that he can return. There are many thousands more like him.
For many, it is too late. During this mission we came across the scattered clothes of families who had been executed, their bodies buried in shallow graves under piles of rocks. On the roads were their burned-out cars, clothes and possessions that were left as they tried to flee ISIS but were gunned down. It is heart-rending and makes me add my voice to the appeal to help these people.
On Sinjar Mountain there are over 8,000 Yazidi Kurds who are displaced and live in tents and rough shelters. Below Sinjar Mountain is the city of Sinjar, which was attacked and taken by ISIS in August 2014, displacing all the people there. Thousands were killed and captured by ISIS and over 50,000 fled the surrounding area and are now in different IDP camps. Many were trapped on Sinjar Mountain above the city until ISIS was pushed back into the city by the Peshmerga and their allies along with coalition air forces. Now ISIS controls most of the city and all the road networks east, west and south of the city. With control over these roads they have an open supply, transport and power projection line into Iraq and Syria.
ISIS attacks the Peshmerga every day with mortar, rocket, machine-gun and sniper fire and every day there are casualties. At night the attacks intensify as ISIS pushes forward with ground assaults. In and around the city we photographed a steady steam of trucks resupplying ISIS between Syria, Kurdistan and Iraq. Daily, hundreds of trucks went in and out of Sinjar, some heading west to ISIS-controlled areas of Syria, and some coming east from Syria on their way through Sinjar and on to Mosul, Ramadi and other cities that ISIS has captured. ?Why are those trucks allowed to pass freely?? asked the people.
Everyone was grateful for coalition airstrikes and people here love America and all the countries that help them. They thanked America again and again, and affirmed it was their own Kurdish duty to defeat ISIS and rebuild their land but wondered why the use of air was so limited and why ISIS was able to move vehicles and trucks freely. ?All those gas tankers, semis, trailers and pick-up trucks are ISIS. There are no civilians here. Why does the US and others allow ISIS to resupply and keep killing us? Why do you allow them to keep their offensives going here, in Iraq and Syria?? There is a pain in their eyes that seems to say, ?Why don?t people really care about us? Why are our enemies, ISIS, allowed to stay in our homes and keep our women and children as slaves? Why are there only half measures taken for us? We are trying to hold back ISIS not just for us but for the world. Please help us for our sakes and your sakes. Why are we treated as people who do not fully count??
We wonder the same thing and hope that those who read this will appeal to their governments to help more, and to stop ISIS supply lines. I added the prayer that all could go home to my regular three prayers that: 1) ISIS be stopped, 2) Kurdistan would be free and 3) the hearts of the enemies would change.
As you see this report, I pray God leads you to help in some way.
Thank you and God bless you,
Dave, family and all the Free Burma and Free Kurdistan Rangers