London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Several hundred demonstrators marched in London on Saturday to call on the international community to help protect Iraq’s minorities against the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Kurds from a coalition of organizations demanded the UK government and international community provide greater support for the Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting against ISIS in northern Iraq and western Syria.
The vast majority of protestors were British Kurds rallying in solidarity with their kin, the ethnically Kurdish Yazidi community that has suffered recent atrocities at the hands of ISIS.
Kurdish officials in Iraq stated that 80 Yazidi men were “massacred” in a village in the north of the country on Friday.
ISIS militants captured the town of Sinjar on August 3, forcibly displacing 200,000 civilians, most of them Yazidis. Thousands fled by foot into the mountains where hundreds are believed to have died from starvation and dehydration.
Aysegul Erdogan, one of the protest organizers, told Asharq Al-Awsat “There are over 2,000–3,000 people who are still stuck on Mount Sinjar, thirsty and with no food, so they’re left to die there. It’s the YPG [Kurdish People’s Protection Units] who first went out there to move these people to a safer place.”
The coalition of Kurdish groups, including the Kurdish People’s Assembly of Britian, also demanded the EU and US remove the Kurdistan Workers’Party (PKK) from their list of terrorist organizations.
A Democratic Unity of Community Associations spokesperson told reporters: “The PKK [should] be recognized as a legitimate, legal organization, in order to enable international communications with the forces on the ground.”
Ranja Faraj, a board member for campaign group Solidarity against ISIS (SAIS), said the group believes the international community should arm the Kurdish forces. “The Kurds are fighting with soviet-era weapons, and ISIS terrorists have been armed by the Iraqi army after they abandoned their weapons . . . they are all American funded weapons,” Faraj told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“We have to at least level the playing field,” he added.
Protestor Hana Abid said: “The international community has a responsibility to clean up the mess it made,” in reference to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. She said the UK government should help train and arm Kurdish Peshmerga forces to take on ISIS.
The European Union yesterday pledged to allow direct deliveries of weapons to the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS. Several EU nations pledged more humanitarian aid at the emergency meeting in Brussels.
Nineb Nersy, an Iraqi Christian from Baghdad, said he didn’t think the arming of the Peshmerga could serve as a long term solution. He instead called for the creation of a safe haven to protect Iraq’s minorities. “I don’t believe in dividing the country but I believe that everyone deserves the right to live in safety without the threat of violence and death,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat. Nersy said he fears that Christians will be eradicated from the Middle East all together if a safe haven is not implemented.
Thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to leave their homes after ISIS militants gave them a deadline to convert to Islam. Fifty Christian families are believed to have fled Sinjar according to Christian charity Open Doors, while Mosul’s Christian community had earlier been forced to flee Iraq’s second city after ISIS gave them a similar ultimatum.