Art of Living reaches out Yazidis, Shias, and Christians in Iraq

Bangalore, India
28th October 2014

Amid ongoing relief work, Gurudev to visit the relief camps

Spiritual leader and peace ambassador, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, today called on the governments of Europe, the United States, of America and India to save the thousands of Yazidis trapped in the Sinjar Mountains in Iraq.

“This is the one of the worst genocides of the 21st century. Yazidis are an ancient community on the verge of extinction. Several members of this community visited me here in the United States and pleaded for help to rescue people from the ISIS onslaught. Christians, Yazidis, and Kurdish Shias are languishing in camps in Erbil, Duhok, and Khazir. Yazidis, who were a community of 23 million, have now been reduced to 1 million over the years,” Gurudev said.

Throwing light on the living conditions in the strife-torn land, he added, “Thousands are trapped in the mountains with no food or water. Close to 7000 Yazidi girls and women, aged between 9 and 35, have been taken captive by ISIS. We have rescued and rehabilitated a 15-year-old girl victim of gang-rape and we are rescuing many other women who are trapped and are being sold by ISIS for as little as $10. Food, water, and other basic necessities are being distributed in the camps every day.”

Urging Kurdish and Arabic people to come across and help, Gurudev said, “I have planned to visit these relief camps soon. I would also like to invite anyone who speaks the Kurdish or Arabic language and who’d like to help to contact me. Since the early stages of the ISIS insurgence in Iraq, over 1.5 million Iraqis have been internally displaced or forced to flee across borders for safety. Volunteers from The Art of Living and the International Association for Human Values (IAHV, a sister organization of The Art of Living) have been working to bring relief to refugees and internally displaced people.

From its base in Erbil, the team has brought relief in the form of food, water, and hygiene products to 5 different camps. Each camp shelters about 550 Iraqi families; in this way, IAHV has reached more than 2,000 families. Additionally, some Kurdish Members of Parliament, who participated in IAHV’s Corporate training program in late June 2014 also came to the aid of the refugees. They visited the camps, met refugees, assessed their needs, and distributed relief items.

“The living conditions of the refugees are extremely unfavorable,” shares Mawahib Shaibani, volunteer with the Art of Living. “In Duhok, there are 100,000 refugees and only one small camp. Most of the refugees are not living in the premises of the camp but on the streets or in unfinished buildings that surround it because the camp is in a terrible condition. It is very unhygienic – there are no blankets, coolers, or food. Nor are there bathrooms or toilets. The children are falling victim to skin diseases because of the unhygienic conditions."

"Currently, the refugees lack even the most basic items for survival, such as food and clothing. Psychologically, they are in an even worse state. An example is of a refugee who had 37 people in his family taken by ISIS. Thousands of women are abducted, gang-raped, and sold in markets every day. Duhok needs additional camps with conditions that meet basic human needs,” Mawahib concludes.