Refugees from ISIS find a home in the US’ mid-west
Lincoln Nebraska is famous for being the birthplace of Oscar winner Hilary Swank, former US Vice President Dick Cheney and talk show host Johnny Carson.
It is Nebraska’s state capital and the home of Nevada State University and its ‘Cornhuskers’ football team.
Now, like a lot of other small-to-medium cities across the United State and despite President Trump’s anti-immigration exhortations, it has become home to a refugee community.
Thousands of ethnic Yazidis, fleeing the brutal ISIS invasion of their traditional homelands in Iraq and Syria, have made this unassuming, mid-western city their home.
ISIS systematically destroyed villages, raped and enslaved thousands of Yazidi women and displaced 500,000 people.
Now, about 3000 of the Yazidi ethnic and religious minority have found sanctuary” in Nebraska.
Lincoln is now reported to be home to the largest Yazidi community in the US.
Some of the Yazidis have lived in Lincoln for decades, having fled previous ethnic violence or persecution after working with the US military in Iraq.
But, but many made their way to Nebraska after ISIS’ siege.
Lincoln has become such a popular destination for Yazidis, that they have established a cultural centre, a place for refugees to learn English, how to manage money, and even how to drive.
For many, the journey to Lincoln has not been an easy one.
Thousands of Yazidi refugees spent years in camps in Syria, Greece, and Turkey before being resettled, and thousands more are still awaiting resettlement.
Others were resettled to different parts of the US and eventually made their way to Lincoln, drawn there by the growing community and support system.
“It’s kind of like back home,” Hasan Khalil, a
Yazidi refugee Hasan Khalil, who runs a barber shop in the city, says it is a little like home.
“It’s smaller. You know, we lived in farms back in Syria. It looked, like, really safe. And that’s what attracted me the most, besides the Yazidi community that we knew from back home,” he told US broadcaster PBS.
Despite its population of just 1.9 million, Nebraska took in the highest number of refugees per capita in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center.
Yazidis in Lincoln says that the city is now home to them. They see a future and opportunities there, and are unlikely to return to Northern Iraq, which is still plagued by conflict.
The surviving Yazidi community, represented former ISIS-slave Nadia Murad — who is also a UN Goodwill Ambassador and a Global Citizen — has worked for two years to bring a case of genocide against ISIS before the International Criminal Court.
In September last year, the UN Security Council approved the establishment of a team that will investigate ISIS’s crimes and support the Iraqi government’s efforts to hold the terrorist organization accountable.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist