EXCLUSIVE: British teenager hopes Theresa May will help save Yazidi women and girls from genocide at the hands of ISIS
A year on since she started her petition, Rozin, a Yazidi girl living in Coventry, continues her fight to rescue thousands of women kidnapped by the so called Islamic State. In between planning a trip to Canada’s parliament and working on a play inspired by the issue, she tells Change.org’s Nadia Gilani how the 229,000 backing her petition, give her the ‘strength’ to keep campaigning against the horror of ISIS.
Rozin Khaleel Hanjool might look like any typical 18-year-old. She’s just finished college and is both nervous and excited about starting university in September. Her dream is to become a lawyer and she has a place at De Montfort University in Leicester to study, law, human rights and social justice. But that’s where the similarities with her peers end.
Rozin’s at the centre of a battle trying to give a voice to thousands of Yazidi women – members of a Kurdish minority group in northern Iraq which ISIS have targeted with mass rapes and murder.
She said: “It’s a year since I started the petition. I feel like I’ve told the public what’s happening and I sometimes don’t know what else I can do to convince the UK government it has to do something. “I feel like politicians are so silent and sometimes I feel let down.
“Then I think about everyone who has signed my petition. I would like to thank each and every one of them for getting behind me. They’re my strength and without every signature I would have given up, because I don’t always feel like politicians are listening. But 229,000 people believe in me, and that helps me believe in myself”.
In 2008 Rozin and her family left Essia to join her father in Coventry because it had become too dangerous to remain in the village in northern Iraq. Arriving in the UK aged seven, she had become used to seeing the family’s suitcases lined up by the front door, ready for a swift getaway if required.
August 3 marks the two-year anniversary since ISIS insurgents advanced through the Sinjar district in northern Iraq killing thousands of Yazidis. Many survivors managed to flee to the mountains but the extremists had other plans for the Yazidi women.
It is reported that more than 7,000 women across three generations – daughters, mothers, and grandmothers – were kidnapped, tortured and sold into sexual slavery.
It’s an issue that Rozin has helped propel into the spotlight, capturing the attention of the media and human rights lawyer, Amal Clooney who is demanding an investigation into ISIS’s crimes against the Yazidi people.
Clooney also hopes to represent thousands of Yazidi women kidnapped, raped and enslaved by ISIS terrorists, at The Hague International Criminal Court. Slow but steady progress is being made, Rozin says. She met the then Minister of International Development Desmond Swayne in November last year but has yet to see results.
“He did say that he would review the way aid is supplied – which is great – but I haven’t seen any improvements yet and I’m always thinking about what else I can do to keep this story out there so people don’t forget. I need to work out what I have to do that will eventually persuade leaders to do something”.
This week Rozin will travel to Toronto with her friend, the Nobel Peace Prize nominee Nadia Murad, to meet politicians at the Canadian Parliament.
Nadia was one of thousands of Yazidi women and girls to be abducted by ISIS and subjected to regular sexual abuse. In December she spoke at the United Nations about what she went through during her time held captive by the terrorist group.
The pair will also attend the first performance of The Unbelievers – a play that tells the story of Sanaa, a Yazidi woman and Orli, a conflict journalist who together try to find a way to deal with the crisis.
Rozin said: “I’ve been consulting the producers of the play, fact-checking and translating parts into Kurmanji – the Yazidi language. I think they have invited lots of politicians, business people and the Yazidi community in Canada. I’m hoping that a lot of people come and watch it to see in front of their eyes the issue I am campaigning about.
“I want my petition to deliver practical steps but also to give Yazidis hope so that they know the world hasn’t turned its back on them”.
Rozin who lives with her parents, three sisters and two brothers, is hoping Britain’s new Prime Minister can offer a new opportunity for her campaign.
“Theresa May could be the leader who listens. I’ll have to wait and see.
“I do sometimes question how much of a difference I can make to the Yazidi women and girls. But I’ve got to try. I won’t stop trying”.