Religious and Human Rights Groups Advocate for 2,763 Missing Yazidi Women and Children

Religious and human rights organizations joined British parliamentarians, academics and attorneys October 14 in an appeal to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top officials in the European Union, Britain and Canada. They urge them to locate nearly 3,000 Yazidi women and children missing since captured seven years ago by Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

A Yazidi woman who escaped abuse from ISIS outside her tent in Kanke refugee camp (Photo by Thomas Koch,
A Yazidi woman who escaped abuse from ISIS, outside her tent in Kanke refugee camp (Photo by Thomas Koch,

In an October 14 letter, the 93 organizations and individuals urged Blinken and other Western officials to take action to find at least 2,763 women and children from the Yazidi community of Iraq who have been missing since ISIS captured territory there and in neighboring Syria in 2014. 

“There are decisive steps that the international community could, and must, take to aid the discovery and safe return of these persons,” the letter stated. “We have a moral imperative to offer whatever leadership and support we can to end this horrific situation.”

ISIS’s persecution of the Yazidis constitutes genocide and crimes against humanity, said the signatories, which included Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Coalition for Genocide Response, Lord Alton of Britain’s House of Lords, the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and the Church of Scientology National Affairs Office.

The terrorists forced thousands to flee. Thousands more were abducted. The letter appeals on behalf of “boys forced to become child soldiers, and women and children sold into sex slavery. The number of those killed by Daesh is still not known. Mass graves continue to be discovered.”

“If they are alive, they continue to be enslaved and subjected to daily abuse. Despite findings of genocide and repeated pronouncements expressing concern for Yazidis, the international community has failed to organise any effort to locate these kidnapped individuals.”

The letter was also circulated among members of the Washington, D.C.-based

International Religious Freedom Roundtable

, which has launched more than 200 multifaith initiatives since it was created in 2010 to serve as a forum to discuss policy issues and interaction among organizations active in civil society, government and multilateral institutions.

Among the concrete steps urged was an official search and rescue operation for survivors, including in Al-Hol camp in Syria where they believe many are held.

Although most of the missing Yazidis are presumed dead, “hundreds more are thought to be alive and held captive in Syria or Turkey,” reported The New York Times on October 3.  Families of some survivors know their whereabouts and have been in touch with them or their captors. “But financial support from governments and private donors, as well as interest from them in finding the missing Yazidis, has dried up.” 

The letter to Blinken and other Western leaders also urges them to arrange for the remains of Yazidis to be “returned to their families and given a dignified and honorable burial.”

“Now is the time to put words into action,” the letter concludes. “While Yazidis face many challenges, organizing a search for abducted women and children is tangible, workable, achievable, and long overdue. We call upon you to demonstrate the moral leadership and courage necessary to push global action in the face of genocide.”


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Yazzidi Antony Blinken Human Rights Groups