Paris mayor visits Yezidi IDPs, governor, Christian clergy in Duhok
Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, went to a camp in the Sharya area of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region on Friday. Separately, she also met with Duhok Governor Farhad Atrushi and Dominican Father Michael Najeeb.
Hidalgo learned of educational opportunities being offered to children in the camp and listened to local traditional music.
When Islamic State (ISIS) militants swept across northern Iraq, Syria, and Kurdistan, more than 216,000 people from the Yezidi homeland of Shingal sought shelter in the Kurdistan Region, according to UNHCR.
In the summer of 2014, ISIS summarily killed an unknown number of Yezidi men, women and children. Some 6,417 women and youth were abducted. Some have escaped or had ransoms paid for their release.
As of early March this year, 3,371 have been rescued and the whereabouts of 3,046 remains unknown, according to figures from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Christians, hearing of the atrocities committed against the Yezidis, fled in some cases just days before ISIS militants arrived in their villages. NGOs estimate that the Kurdistan Region sheltered around 400,000 Christians during the conflict. About 200,000 have returned to their areas, while around 100,000 have left Iraq. Many have sought asylum in Europe, America, and Australia.
France is a member of the US-led international anti-ISIS coalition. Paris and Erbil have enjoyed close ties for decades, especially following the implementation of the no-fly zone backed by France in 1992, which effectively allowed the Kurdistan Regional Government to gain de facto autonomy.
The Kurdistan Region continues to shelter hundreds of thousands displaced Yezidis who refuse to return citing the lack of security, infrastructure, and jobs.
Photos: Safin Hamed | AFP