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September 26, 2017

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The forgotten genocide: The only Yazidi in Taiwan tells his story

Graduate school student Salal Hasan Khudaida is now the only Yazidi living in Taiwan.

Khudaida arrived here after applying for a government scholarship a year and a half ago to study chemical engineering at Taiwan Tech.

"My older brother came to study civil engineering at Taiwan University about 10 years ago and stayed for eight years. He's returned to Iraq to teach at the University of Kurdistan. He is the one that told me I could apply for scholarship in Taiwan," Khudaida said in fluent Mandarin.

"He said Taiwan is a great place and the people are very welcoming here."

Only 25 years old, Khudaida has witnessed numerous atrocities and cruelty against his people, including during the first Persian Gulf War, the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and, mostly recently, a siege with Islamic State militants during which the terror group committed genocide against the beleaguered religious minority, exterminating thousands of Yazidi men and sexually enslaving countless women and children.

Though the Yazidis' plight received some attention at the time, the genocide is little discussed and little known, especially in Taiwan.

Yazidis are an ethnically Kurdish religious community. The bulk of their population lives in northern Iraq. Starting in August 2014, the Yazidis were targeted by the Islamic State in its campaign to "purify" Iraq and neighboring countries. The group regards Yazidis as devil worshippers.

Around 3,100 Yazidis were killed within a few days of the Islamic State's invasion, while more than 3,000 children lost both their parents and another 6,800 people were kidnapped. IS executed men who refused to convert to Islam on the spot.

Khudaida has continued to advocate for Yazidis during his time in Taiwan.

"I think the most serious issue now is the psychological problems people are coping with," he said.

"How can we make people feel secure again and find ways for them to go home? Many people are afraid of IS returning. … There are also orphans that need an education, but they can't get it because they don't have money. There are many NGOs helping them, but I don't think it's enough."

In addition to studying, Khudaida has been reaching out to local media as part of plans to raise funds through NGOs to help displaced women and children.

"I think this work is very important, so I'll find time for this even when coursework gets tough," he said.

For the original Chinese-language article, please visit: https://www.mirrormedia.mg/story/20170515int_salal_main

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