Yazidi family fleeing ISIS violence finds new home in Winnipeg

Family of 8 arrived on Monday night

Yazidi family arrives in Winnipeg 1:04


A Yazidi family has arrived in Winnipeg to start a new life.

The arrivals area of the Winnipeg airport erupted in cheers and tears on Monday night as the family of eight — six children and their parents — came down an escalator into the arms of a welcoming crowd.

They were the first privately sponsored Yazidi refugee family to arrive through the Operation Ezra coalition of Winnipeg.

"They are so excited," said Nafiya Naso, a representative from the Yazidi community and a member of Operation Ezra.

"They told me they were exhausted but, at the same time, they were very excited and they couldn't wait to come and meet everybody and see family and friends here, so it will be wonderful."

Yazidi family

A large group waited in the airport to welcome the Yazidi family to Winnipeg. (CBC)

Operation Ezra began as a grassroots group of Jewish community organizations but has grown into a multi-faith coalition. The goal is to sponsor, house and support seven Yazidi families — 42 people.

"We are just so happy to finally see them here," said Belle Jarniewski, a member of Operation Ezra.

"This journey started in March 2015 and it is the first group that we are seeing."

In June, a United Nations report said militants from ISIS, an al-Qaeda splinter group fighting in the Middle East to establish an Islamist state, were seeking to destroy the ancient religious community of 400,000 people through killings, sexual slavery and other crimes.

The report said the militants had been systematically rounding up Yazidis since August 2014, seeking to "erase their identity," a finding that meets the definition of genocide under the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide.

"They have nowhere to go and there are 25,000 of them right now in refugee camps in Turkey," Jarniewski said.

Yazidi family 2

Members of the newly-arrived Yazidi family hugged people in the welcoming group. (CBC)

The family that arrived on Monday had their flight to a new country and a new life was delayed by the airport bombing in Istanbul. The family had travelled 26 hours from a refugee camp en route to Istanbul's Ataturk Airport when the bombing happened.

Jarniewski said it's clear that they need to continue to bring the other Yazidi families to Winnipeg.

"We are so happy at what is happening tonight, but it is bittersweet because there are so many other Yazidis that are suffering, and we are hoping that we can see Yazidis find a safe haven in Canada," she said.

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