Yezidi genocide awareness: humanities' collective responsibility
TORONTO, Canada (K24) – Academics, scholars, and other distinguished guests gathered at the North York Civic Centre in Toronto, Canada for a conference on the recent genocide of the Yezidi (sometimes referred to as Ezidi) people sponsored by The Greater Toronto Area Kurdish House on Sunday, Dec. 13.
After a moment of silence honoring the many thousands of Yezidi lives lost, Chato Wany, President of The Greater Toronto Area Kurdish House gave his opening speech to welcome everybody.
“We have decided to highlight and raise the voice full of pain…of [the] most unique part of our nation, [the] most original part of our nation, our Ezidi brothers and sisters,” Wany addressed the excited crowd.
“Our enemies surrounding Kurdistan, and in the region...they try very hard to divide our nation into Ezidi and non-Ezidi Kurds,” Wany said, affirming that The Kurdish House “will always be in solidarity and support” of Yezidis. “We will always be by their side; we will always be with them in their dark days and their happiness.”
The day-long conference consisted of two panels where scholars from Canada, Germany, France, Sweden, and Italy discussed the recent genocide of the Yezidi people at the hands of the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (ISIL), and offered their thoughts on reconciliation for the victims.
The conference was partially meant to provide an opportunity for an academic framework, but the main purpose was to raise awareness in the form of humanitarian relief and efforts to give the Yezidi people a chance for a hopeful future.
Lucy Usoyan, head of the US-based Ezidi Relief Fund, spoke to K24 and explained that although the new Liberal Canadian government is “not willing to extend their hand and help [Ezidi] people,” the Kurdish community in Canada must continue to lobby and raise awareness.
“What we would like to bring to the attention and awareness of this government [is] that we are human beings, we’re all one, and we need assistance right now,” Usoyan said.
“We have to knock on [the Canadian government’s] doors, set meetings, keep asking; we cannot give up because our people need our help, and [the] Canadian government has a great power [sic] which can assist us,” she added.
Vivienne Ziner, a human rights activist who has been involved with the Conservative Party of Canada, was a guest speaker at the conference. Ziner told K24 that the conference was a great first step, but that more needs to be done moving forward.
“I think what’s really important is that you have to make yourselves heard, and you have to make yourselves seen, and you cannot take a back step or a reticent position,” Ziner said. “You have to be forceful; these are your people that are being murdered in the most barbaric and uncivilized manner.”
Ziner also agreed with Usoyan and believes that the current Liberal Canadian government hasn’t done enough in helping Yezidis, who are “the most at risk,” sharing her ideas of how to get the government’s attention.
“If I were you, I would be camping out in front of Toronto City Hall, in front of the legislature, and ultimately in front of Ottawa in the same tents that the Ezidi are freezing to death in, and I would insist that Canadian politicians come into that tent and see what it’s like to live in those kinds of conditions,” she told K24.
Ilana Shneider, the founding Executive Director of the Canada-Israel Friendship Association, was also a guest at the conference. Shneider told K24 that the Ezidi issue has to be brought back up the pecking order if changes are to be made.
“It is an extremely important issue that has fallen off the table in the last year or so because of the Syrian refugee crisis,” she said. “I think putting the Ezidi issue back on the table for the Canadian government to address should be one of the first priorities.”