Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, has met with Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Vatican special envoy dispatched to address the plight of Christian refugees in Kurdistan.
“It is the duty of the KRG to protect and support displaced Christians, Yezidis and other religious and ethnic groups seeking refuge in the Kurdistan Region,” Barzani told the Cardinal. “However, given the number of refugees and displaced people, the KRG cannot provide adequate assistance,” he explained.
Barzani said the Iraqi government and international community must promptly step in to provide humanitarian assistance.
“Christians, Yezidis, and other minority groups are natives of the area, with historic roots in the region,” he said. “They need physical protection from the terrorists, not only verbal support, because the terrorists target churches, mosques, and shrines.”
There has been a steady surge in international aid and military support for the Kurds, whose Peshmerga forces have remained a bulwark against an IS advances in northern Iraq.
In another development, the Kurdistan regional government added $10 million to a refugee fund for thousands of displaced Yezidis and Christians daily pouring in from other parts of Iraq, as Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani vowed the KRG would not flinch from aiding the displaced.
“The Kurdish government will do all in its power to help the refugees and provide for them what they need,” Barzani said.
He met with the governors of Erbil and Duhok to address the tens of thousands of Yezidi and Christian civilians who have arrived in the autonomous Kurdistan Region just over the past several days, fleeing the Islamic State (IS/ISIS) militants that especially target the non-Muslim minorities.
The fund announced on Wednesday added to $15 million allocated last week by the Kurdish government.
“In the coming days there will be more help coming to the refugees,” Barzani promised.
The Kurdistan Region is currently hosting more than a million refugees, among them Syrian Kurds, Iraqi Arabs, Yezidis and Christians.
Until June the regular flow of refugees allowed the Kurdish government to build refugee camps in Kurdistan’s three provinces of Erbil, Duhok and Sulaimani. But with the sudden expansion of the Islamic State to new territories outside Mosul the number of refugees doubled in less than a week.
Barzani said his government will start building new camps for Yezidi and Christian families who are sheltering at parks, churches, schools and construction sites.
“In the first stage we will hurry to provide the basic needs for these people,” the premier said. “Then all necessities will be provided inside the camps that we are planning to build.”
Barzani promised that with the help of the international community and arms supplies, the Kurdish forces “will be able to defeat and overcome the Islamic group.”
“But what is important is to also treat people for the deep wounds and traumas that the IS brutality has left on their souls,” he noted. “This needs sensitivity, patience and proper treatment.”