John Heffern, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, met with leaders of Armenia’s Yazidi community on Wednesday to discuss the plight of their displaced co-ethnics in Iraq.
Heffern said they expressed “appreciation for U.S. efforts” to help tens of thousands Iraqi Yazidis but called for “more support.” Writing on his Twitter page, he described the meeting as “informative.”
A separate statement released by the U.S. Embassy in Armenia said Heffern assured the Armenian Yazidi leaders that the United States will continue its relief efforts in northern Iraq.
U.S. air strikes carried out over the past week have helped Kurdish fighters to push Islamic State insurgents back from Sinjar Mountain where thousands of Iraqi Yazidis took refuge after fleeing their homes earlier this month. Hundreds and possibly thousands of others were reportedly killed by the jihadist militants for refusing to convert to Islam.
Boris Murazi of the Yerevan-based Yazidi group Sinjar Union said he and other participants of the meeting with Heffern urged the U.S. to ensure that more relief aid reaches their ethnic kin in northern Iraq. “The bulk of the aid for Yazidi refugees goes into the Kurdish autonomy,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). “But refugees still survive with the help of wealthy Kurds. This means that the aid does not serve its main purpose.”
In Murazi’s words, the Yazidis also want Washington to supply them with weapons for self-defense and help create a Yazidi autonomy in Iraq. “All Yazidis hope for the creation of an autonomy because even if this fighting ends and, God willing, the Islamists are driven out of Yazidi areas Yazidis cannot imagine their future life there with the same status and under the same regime,” he said.
The discussion with the U.S. envoy followed meetings held by the representatives of Armenia’s largest ethnic minority with senior Armenian government officials. They followed a series of demonstrations staged by Yazidis in Yerevan in protest against the Armenian government’s perceived slow reaction to what they believe is a genocide of their people.
The government has pledged to deliver at least $50,000 worth of food supplies to northern Iraq and press the international community to save the Iraqi Yazidis from extermination.