“Help Us Free Our Children” FBR Mission to the Kurds

Kurdistan, Northern Iraq
22 June 2015

Dear friends,

Thanks for your support for the people of Burma, Sudan and Kurdistan. We are in the last part of our relief mission to the people under attack by ISIS here in Kurdistan.

Vehicles destroyed by ISIS as they fled attack at Sinjar. A massacre of civilians resulted.

In Kurdistan, as in Iraq and Syria, ISIS continues its attacks and people continue to suffer. With your help we are able to give some medical, dental, emotional and spiritual care to the displaced here. The Karen team members from Burma who are with us have connected especially closely with the  Kurds and there is a bond of love and understanding born of common experience.

Eliya, a Karen medic treating Yazidi IDP baby on Sinjar Mountain

Here there are many stories of loss and pain and one struck me the most. During a Good Life Club program with Yazidi Kurd IDPs on Sinjar Mountain, we talked with a man who was providing security for the IDPs. He was a Yazidi IDP himself and he and others with him told us that when ISIS attacked his hometown of Sinjar, he was away and his mother, father and 1-year-old baby were captured. He was distraught but said, “What can I do?  My baby along with thousands of others are being held far way from Sinjar, deep in ISIS controlled territory. There they live like slaves. The boys are trained and brainwashed to grow up to join ISIS and the girls are used for sex. If I go and try to break through ISIS lines to get her back, I will be killed quickly. Then my family will have no father, my wife no husband and my baby will still be captured.” Tears came to his eyes as he spoke but he refused to cry and said his only hope was in God. I had no response except to hug him and tell him that God did care and that His hope was real. I prayed right then with him that God would give us a miracle and that his baby would be returned to him this month. That is my prayer and my hope.

Coalition airstrike on ISIS position in Sinjar City

Then we talked to a woman who had fled ISIS from the Sinjar area. Her brother and nephew were killed by ISIS as they tried to recover food from their homes for their families. She also lost her home, livestock and way of life. She began to cry, asking, “When will we be able to go home? Only God can help us, but will He?”

Coalition airstrike in Sinjar City

These are only some of the thousands of stories of human misery and injustice, of lives lost and a sense of hopelessness. These are only a few of the appeals to stop ISIS and liberate their homes so that they can return.

Destruction in the city of Sinjar with ISIS positions

During this mission we came across the scattered clothes of families who had been executed, their bodies in shallow graves under piles of rocks. On the roads were their burned-out cars, clothes and possessions which they lost as they fled ISIS and then were gunned down themselves. It is heart-rending and makes me add my voice to the appeal to help these people.

Gravesite of Yazidi people killed by ISIS while fleeing attacks of August 2014

We spent the first half of the mission here giving training on the front lines near Mosul and doing GLC, medical and dental programs for villagers and IDPs. The second half of the mission, we went up to Sinjar Mountain, where over 8,000 Yazidi Kurds are displaced and live in tents and rough shelters. Below Sinjar Mountain is the city of Sinjar which was attacked and taken by ISIS in August 2014, displacing all the people there. Thousands were killed and captured by ISIS and over 50,000 fled the surrounding area and are now in different IDP camps. Many were trapped on Sinjar Mountain above the city until ISIS was pushed back into the city by the Peshmerga and their allies along with coalition air forces. Now ISIS controls most of the city and all the road networks east, west and south of the city. With control over these roads they have an open supply, transport and power projection line into Iraq and Syria.

Yazidi IDP children at a Good Life Club program in a camp on Sinjar Mountain
Teaching health and hygiene at GLC program for Yazidi children on Sinjar Mountain

On top of Sinjar Mountain we worked closely with the Kurdish emergency medical team C 122, Eliya and Ray Kaw (Karen FBR medics) treated patients, Ka Paw Say and Sahale trained video, while our dentist, Dr. Shannon, performed over 400 dental procedures. On this mission Shannon performed over 750 procedures total. They all treated IDPs as well as wounded Peshmerga troops. Hosannah, Karen, Sahale, Suu, Peter and Pastor Tae did three GLC programs and interviewed people who had lost family members and all they owned. Micah, Jonathan and Justin helped with medical and information training and the running of this mission.

Dental care for Peshmerga soldiers in bunker on the frontline of Sinjar City

We took part of our team down to Sinjar City where there is fighting every day. We treated wounded and gave dental treatments as well as medical training. We also trained the Peshmerga in the use of GPS and camera to help them make reports and put more light on the situation. ISIS attacks the Peshmerga every day with mortar, rocket, machine-gun and sniper fire and every day there are casualties. At night the attacks intensify as ISIS pushes forward with ground assaults. During the day, in between attacks, we trained as we could and at night we prayed with and slept with the Peshmerga and Yazidi volunteers.

Eliya and Ray Kaw, Karen medics treat Peshmerga soldier wounded by ISIS mortar attack

In and around the city we  photographed a steady steam of trucks resupplying ISIS between Syria, Kurdistan and Iraq. Daily, hundreds of trucks went in and out of Sinjar, some heading west to ISIS-controlled areas of Syria, and some coming east from Syria on their way through Sinjar and on to Mosul, Ramadi and other cities that ISIS has captured. “Why are those trucks allowed to pass freely?” asked the people.
Everyone was grateful for coalition airstrikes and people here love America and all the countries that help them. They thanked America again and again, and affirmed it was their own Kurdish duty to defeat ISIS and rebuild their land but wondered why the use of air was so limited and why ISIS was able to move vehicles and trucks freely. “All those gas tankers, semis, trailers and  pick-up trucks are ISIS. There are no civilians here. Why does the US and others allow ISIS to resupply and keep killing us? Why do you allow them to keep their offensives going here, in Iraq and Syria?” We wonder the same thing and hope that those who read this will appeal to their governments to help more, and to stop ISIS supply lines.

Movement of ISIS supply vehicles between Syria and ISIS positions in Kurdistan and Iraq

Throughout my time here my prayer has been, “Lord, help me share your love and the gospel of Jesus. I do not know how to do that the right way here.” Most of the people we are helping, training and working with are Muslims and Yazidis who practice a syncretic blend of Islam and Christianity and their own religion. We prayed with everyone we met and were united in love and common purpose here. I added the prayer that all could go home to my regular three prayers that: 1) ISIS be stopped, 2) Kurdistan would be free and 3) the hearts of the enemies would change.
It seemed to me that most of what we did here was feel and show love. The people of Kurdistan are some of the most hospitable people I have ever met. As we walk, work, eat, treat, help and take cover together, they share all they have with us. Yet there is a pain in their eyes that seems to say, “Why don’t people really care about us? Why are our enemies, ISIS, allowed to stay in our homes and keep our women and children as slaves? Why are there only half measures taken for us? We are trying to hold back ISIS not just for us but for the world. Please help us for our sakes and your sakes. Why are we treated as people who do not fully count?”

Displaced Yazidi woman

Dear reader, as you see this report, look at the photos and reflect, I pray God leads you to help in some way. As we have been here we have been told to thank you all for  how you made this mission possible and how they are grateful to the people of the world who do care and do help. “You became close to us. You lived with us and let us get close to you. There is no barrier of any kind between us. We know you love us. We love you and consider you as our people. Thanks you for coming here to stand with us. We ask God to bless you and all who sent you.” This is what we were told by many here and we thank you all who sent us for your prayers and support. We thank God for leading us all in this and we ask for God’s  freedom for all of us.

Yazidi children at the end of a GLC program on Sinjar Mountain

Thank you and God bless you,

Dave, family and all the Free Burma and Free Kurdistan Rangers