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Yazidi Advocate Reacts To ISIS Leader's Death


It's been one week since President Trump announced the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. And a week in which some of the people ISIS targeted have been asking what's next for us - among them, the Yazidis, a minority community in Syria and northern Iraq who were systematically raped and murdered by ISIS. Many displaced survivors of that genocide are still living in refugee camps.

Hadi Pir is vice president of a Yazidi advocacy organization. He spent years working with the U.S. Army in Iraq, and he joins us now from Lincoln, Neb., where he's also a high school teacher.


HADI PIR: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What was the mood this past week in the Yazidi community after al-Baghdadi's death was announced?

PIR: So the news was very welcome among the Yazidis here in America and also in Iraq. They showed their appreciation to the U.S. government, especially to the team who went and did this mission. But at the same time, there is also this question that among Yazidis, and I also share that same thing, that when bin Laden was killed and then we had the same question that the ideologies there, there's fear, now there would be a new leader, a new bin Laden with a new flag. And that's exactly what happened. So the same question now the Yazidis are opposing, is it going to be a new al-Baghdadi with a new flag since the ideology's there?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, we saw this past week the appointment of a new leader of ISIS. I know from having spoken to other Yazidis one of the main concerns is about justice - how will the Yazidi people get justice for what they've suffered? What does that look like? Is that prosecutions in court? Is that what you would like to see happen?

PIR: We understand that not every single person who joined ISIS will be able to go to the court, and that's probably not even feasible, I mean, from a realistic point of view. But we want to see that there is a justice that's been - there's an investigation that's been targeting the leaders and find out some of the people that were in charge of raping the Yazidi women and who are the people who decide what they're going to do with the Yazidis when they will attack their areas.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Hadi, have Yazidis been able to return to their towns and villages to rebuild? We've heard President Trump say that ISIS has lost all of its territories. Does that mean that the Yazidi community has been able to return to their historic places?

PIR: In Iraq, there's two towns close to Mosul - Bashir (ph) and Barzan (ph). And most of the Yazidis did return to their homes. And we, as an organization, we help them build their houses and replant their olive trees. But unfortunately, in Sinjar about 70% of Yazidis still in refugee camps. And Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government and other parties are not willing to solve that conflict so, for these people to return.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you think needs to happen right now for Yazidis to feel secure?

PIR: So there is many ideas now how we can make this happen and we have many discussions with the U.S. government and policymakers. I believe for this to happen, that the Yazidis and Christians and Shia and other minorities in the areas, they should be responsible of their own security. So these people be in, more in the Iraqi army, more be in police and border police. But they will be protecting their areas and the people who can take decisions are from those areas, some sort of guarantee that they will protect their own people.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Hadi Pir is vice president of Yazda, a Yazidi advocacy group. He joined us from Lincoln, Neb.

Thank you very much.

PIR: Thank you so much for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.