One Free World International Announces Successful Delegation to the Kurdistan Region of Northern Iraq

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One Free World International's President and Founder, Rev. Majed El Shafie, is safely en route from Northern Iraq back to North America. El Shafie has been leading a previously unannounced delegation, including three Canadian members of Parliament.

One Free World International’s Rev. Majed El Shafie (second from left) meets with refugees in the Kurdistan Region of Northern Iraq on August 31, 2014.

The minorities in Iraq are facing what can only be described as the beginning of a genocide.

One Free World International (OFWI) is pleased to announce that their President and Founder, Rev. Majed El Shafie, is safely en route from Northern Iraq (Kurdistan Region) back to North America. El Shafie has been leading a Canadian delegation which left Toronto, Canada at the end of August, 2014. Due to security concerns, the delegation and their itinerary was not previously announced.

The delegation included three Honourable Canadian Members of Parliament: Mr. Brad Butt (Mississauga-Streetsville); Mr. Russ Hiebert (South Surrey - White Rock - Cloverdale); and Mr. Leon Benoit (Vegreville-Wainwright). The three Members of Parliament participated in the capacity of observers. Also joining the delegation were Pastor Dean Curry, from Tacoma, Washington, USA; and Pastor Hany Boghossian, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

OFWI travelled to Northern Iraq in order to stand with the minorities who continue to be targeted in the brutal campaign of violence by ISIS. The OFWI delegation visited several refugee camps in the Kurdistan Region of Northern Iraq, where minorities have fled the advance of ISIS with little more than the clothes on their back. The OFWI delegation witnessed unspeakable pain and suffering among the internally displaced persons (IDP). The delegation met with children who had lost their parents; husbands who had lost their wives and daughters; families with loved ones who were missing. OFWI heard consistent reports of widespread sexual violence against minority women and girls, who were being taken from their family and abused by ISIS fighters. OFWI also heard reports of minority women and girls being sold as slaves – at times for as little as $20 USD each.

“The minorities in Iraq are facing what can only be described as the beginning of a genocide,” said El Shafie. “ISIS forces are systematically eliminating all minorities from the areas under their control – whether by expulsion, forced conversion, slavery or killing. If the international community does not take action immediately, there is no long or short-term future for minorities in Iraq.”

The IDP’s in Northern Iraq are in desperate need of immediate assistance. According to Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) foreign affairs official Dindar Zebari, there are at least 1.6 million IDP’s in the Kurdistan region alone. Approximately 90,000 families of IDP’s (approximately 700,000 people) have sought refuge in the city of Duhok since the start of the ISIS crisis – 250,000 of whom arrived on the same day. In one camp OFWI visited there were 500 children under the age of 3.

The OFWI delegation met with officials from the KRG in order to demonstrate their commitment to stand with the Iraqi people in this time of crisis and to determine the most immediate needs in this humanitarian crisis. OFWI emphasized to KRG officials the importance of ensuring that minorities are protected and not left behind during this crisis.

The sheer volume of refugees has overwhelmed the resources of the KRG. IDP’s have urgent need of all the basic necessities of life – clean water, food and shelter. KRG health officials also reported to OFWI that there is a desperate shortage of medication to treat the sick and wounded.

More fundamentally, the displaced minorities need security. OFWI calls on the international community to urgently provide military aid to the local forces fighting to secure the areas overrun by ISIS. In the interim, the international community also has a responsibility to help resettle refugees that have no prospect of returning home in the foreseeable future.

The urgency of the situation is exacerbated by the fact that winter is only about six weeks away. Contrary to popular perception, winter nights in Iraq (particularly in the north) are bitterly cold. The IDP’s, who left with nothing but the clothes on their back, are living in hastily assembled camps in schools, churches and abandoned or unfinished office buildings and warehouses.

OFWI calls on the international community to take urgent steps to address the needs of the IDP’s in Northern Iraq. The world cannot stand idly by in this time of crisis.

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Brian Mayes