Tuesday was an exceptionally grim day for Iraq. Trucks loaded with fuel detonated in Qataniyah and Adnaniyah, devastating infrastructure and killing hundreds. Estimates now range between 300-500 dead, with entire families wiped out in the coordinated attack. Newspaper outlets such as the Telegraph are calling it the deadliest attack since the 2003 invasion and "one of the deadliest global attacks" since 9-11.
Qataniyah and Adnaniyah lie in northern Iraq and are populated by the Yazidi, who ascribe to a pre-Islamic religion.
This attack, like many others, targeted civilians, but is distinguished by a number of things. First, the sheer scale of the attack and level of destruction sets it apart from others. Second, that it occured in the northern Kurdish region populated by a small religious minority shows the commitment of terrorist groups to attack "soft targets", even if it means going to the most remote areas of Iraq to do so.
While such attacks can dash hope that something can be done to protect innocent civilians in Iraq, there are opportunities for everyone, including concerned citizens like you and me, to make a difference.
NPR's Morning Edition interviewed Elias Kassem today, a Yazidi immigrant who resettled in the United States after the 1991 Gulf War. Today, he lives with his wife in Lincoln, Nebraska where, after learning they lost family in the attack, Lincolnians reached out to support and console them. "I was thinking of leaving Lincoln", Elias said, "But it's changed my view of how I look at Lincoln, especially the people. I'll probably never leave Lincoln."
I was proud to hear the story of this Yazidi who has been welcomed into the Lincoln community. It's a story that speaks to the American tradition. And minorities such as the Yazidi are exactly the sort of population that the "Crisis in Iraq Act" (S. 1651) and the "Resposibility to Iraqi Refugees Act" (H.R. 2265) aim to protect. We have the opportunity to continue our tradition of moral leadership by supporting these bills in the House and Senate and to provide protection for those who cannot protect themselves. It's our opportunity to support positive change for the people of Iraq.
[Image: The Chermera temple (meaning “40 Men” in the Yezidi dialect) on the highest peak on the Sinjar mountains in northern Iraq.]