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Iraq MP: We need Canadians to 'hear our prayer'

By David Akin, Postmedia Network

A girl from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, rests at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province, Aug. 13, 2014. (YOUSSEF BOUDLAL/Reuters)

A girl from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence in the Iraqi town of Sinjar, rests at the Iraqi-Syrian border crossing in Fishkhabour, Dohuk province, Aug. 13, 2014. (YOUSSEF BOUDLAL/Reuters)

OTTAWA — A member of Iraq's parliament who represents a minority religious group surrounded by ISIS terrorists in her country's northeast corner pleaded Tuesday for more military and humanitarian help from Canada and the rest of the world.

"We need the Canadian people to hear our prayer and help us," Iraq MP Vian Saeed told a committee of Canadian MPs.

Saeed, who spoke to MPs in Ottawa via teleconference from Erbil, Iraq is one of two Yazidi MPs in the her Parliament.

The Yazidis are an ancient religious group. Their homeland is centred around the Sinjar Mountains in Iraq's northeast. Tens of thousands of them, surrounded by ISIS terrorists, are in frigid mountain camps with little food, water or shelter as winter approaches.

Saeed said 50 families are sharing one shower and toilet in makeshift camps.

"We need international protection," she said.

While Saeed testified from Iraq, two Yazidi men, who had worked for the U.S. military as translators, testified in person at the Parliament Hill committee.

Khalid Haider and Omar Haider — they are not related — said the Yazidis had been betrayed by Kurdish security forces — the PeshMerga — who had promised to protect them from ISIS but left the Yazidis defenceless and without warning as ISIS forces advanced.

"This is the first time in history that the Kurds are betraying Yazidis," Khalid Haider said.

The Yazidis, defenceless before the ISIS advance, fled into the mountains. Many others — thousands perhaps — were brutally murdered. Thousands more became hostages.

Omar Haider told MPs of the harrowing story of how ISIS forces invaded his family's village, then separated the men from the women.

The men, including his three uncles, have not been heard from in a month. The women, including his sisters and grandmother, were sold into slavery in Syria.

Canada is the third largest donor of humanitarian aid to the region.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, accompanied by NDP MP Paul Dewar and Liberal MP Marc Garneau, visited the region earlier this year.

Canada also deployed six CF-18s for combat missions against ISIS terrorists, despite objections from the Liberals and NDP, both of which wanted Canada to provide only humanitarian aid.

Saeed and the Haiders told the committee that both military intervention and humanitarian aid are vital if the Yazidis are to survive.

"We need the Canadian government with the international governments to help our government here fighting ISIS," Saeed said. "This will help us to go back home, to the land they took from us."

Canadian Rabbi Reuven Bulka, who also testified, urged Canada and other nations to do more and to do it quickly.

"Sympathy cards don't save lives," Bulka said. "What more can we do? This is an emergency."


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