London

'We want to show the world what happened to us': London Yazidis remember genocide at Victoria Park rally

Members of London's 400-strong Yazidi population held a rally at Victoria Park Monday to raise awareness about the plight of their people, who were the victims of genocide at the hands of ISIS.

Monday marked the sixth anniversary of the Yazidi genocide

Faiza Qasim, left and Eflin Aldakhi joined a rally of Yazidis in Victoria Park on Monday. The rally was held to bring attention to the plight of the Yazidi people who were the targets of an attempted genocide at the hands of ISIS in northern Iraq. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

In many ways, Faiza Qasim is a typical 15-year-old. 

She attends Montcalm Secondary School, she does volunteer work and she's working on her high school diploma.

As a member of London's 400-strong Yazidi community, she's also a survivor of genocide.

It happened in August 2014 at the hands of ISIS when the militant Islamic group staged an attack on Sinjar in northern Iraq. 

The attacks against the Yazidis — a religious minority  — were brutal. A United Nations report declared that the slaughter, sexual slavery, indoctrination and other crimes committed against the 400,000 Yazidi amounted to genocide.

Yazidis mostly reside in northern Iraq and practice a religion that has elements of Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism. Branded as devil worshippers by some Muslims, including ISIS militants, the community has faced persecution for centuries.

In the 2014 attack, Qasim's father, grandfather, younger sister and three uncles were taken away and remain missing. 

"We want to remember our missing family members and we want to show the world what happened to us and we want to make sure that doesn't happen to us again," she said Monday. 

Qasim spoke to CBC News ahead of a rally at Victoria Park where the community gathered to remember those missing and to press the Canadian government to help find them. 

Some 1,200 Yazidis came to Canada in 2017, and about a quarter settled in London. 

Qasim said the plight of the Yazidi people is not well known, something she hopes to change. 

"Some of the people, when I met them in school, when I say I'm a Yazidi from Iraq, the don't know what Yazidi are," she said. 

"My father, my three uncles and my grandpa ... we don't know anything about them. Hopefully they can find them and we can see each other again."

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