By Rhett Muller
For the Yazidi people everything has meaning. From their religious beliefs to daily interactions, everything they do is to create a stronger community for their family and for Yazidis as a whole.
With a quick Internet search, you will find a strong connection between Yazidis and Lincoln, Nebraska. Lincoln has one of the largest populations of Yazidi people in the United States and is estimated to have about 215 families who now call the Star City home.
The growth of the Yazidi population in Lincoln is no coincidence. The Yazidi community has found Lincoln to be a welcoming place where its members can begin a new life together while maintaining their culture and traditions.
To form a stable community of Yazidis in Lincoln, a group of Yazidi immigrants and refugees have come together to start the United Yezidi Community of America.
“We started as small group, and we had many meetings with different people of our Yazidi community to see how they react to this idea and how we as an organization can help our community,” said Salman Haji, one of the co-founders of UYCA.
According to Haji, his community needs a place in America to gather, participate in activities and practice Yazidi traditions.
UYCA is now 19 members strong, each playing an important role in building the organization. The group meets every Sunday to discuss plans and to work together to find the best ways to advocate for the Yazidi people.
In November 2015 they registered with the State of Nebraska as a non-profit organization, acquired a logo and began building a website to both inform and invite people to participate in the building of a Yazidi community.
UYCA’s website lays out the main goals they plan to accomplish both in Lincoln and worldwide:
1. Buy a piece of land as soon as possible to become a cemetery for Yazidis in America.
2. Build a hall inside the cemetery to be a place where Yazidis gather and perform the various events.
3. Build a shrine on the same piece of land to be the Yazidi symbol and be a place for performing religious rituals.
4. Build a cultural educational center to educate people with different skills and to provide the basic needs for the people of the city including, filling out application forms for all departments and professional business centers for the purpose of facilitating getting a job.
5. Assist displaced people in camps inside and outside Iraq through opening a center in each camp and providing them with basic needs required for life.
6. Assist patients in camps by providing treatment and expenses required for the purpose of a surgical operation if required.
7. Coordinate with other organizations, government entities and international community to help those who manage to escape from ISIS captivity in term of providing psychological treatment and rehabilitation programs and provide a special place for their psychological states, whether inside or outside the country.
8. Demand international organizations and the United Nations to facilitate the way for those who desire to exit out of Iraq and Turkey.
9. Work with the international community and the Iraqi government to quickly release kidnapped women and children from ISIS terrorists.
10. Provide the United States government and other foreign countries with official documents and provision of evidence about atrocities against Yazidis that took place on August 3, 2014, to be recognized as a genocide so that Yazidi citizens obtain their rights.
UYCA has become one of the most important parts of Mardan Dna’s life. After working for the U.S. military as an interpreter in Iraq, he and his family were resettled in Lincoln in November 2012.
Being a part of the Yazidi community has always been important for Dna, but with UYCA he now has clear goals and a way to accomplish them.
At the core of UYCA members want to tell the story of the Yazidi people. Because they are rooted in strong traditions and religious beliefs, everything they do has meaning.
Their logo is comprised of a sun with 74 points to represent the 74 genocides the Yazidi people experienced, the Peacock Angel that is an important religious symbol, and seven peacock feathers to represent another important part of their religion, the Seven Great Angels.
The UYCA website also aims to tell their story by providing in-depth information about the history and experiences of the Yazidi people.
According to UYCA members, the next step is to get funding and donations so that they are able to build a cemetery and place for Yazidis in Lincoln to gather so they may practice traditions and embrace their culture. By putting all of these pieces together, UYCA wants to put meaning behind the Yazidi community in Lincoln.