IRAQ

Indian spiritual leader steps up relief work for refugees in northern Iraq

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 November, 2014, 8:09pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 November, 2014, 5:10am

An organisation set up by one of India's most powerful spiritual leaders is delivering aid to Yazidi refugees trapped in the Sinjar mountains in northern Iraq, following an insurgency by Islamic State militants.

The International Association for Human Values (IAHV), a sister concern of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's The Art of Living, teamed up with local non-governmental organisations in Iraq to collect 110 tonnes of food supplies destined for relief camps for Yazidi and other religious minority refugees near areas targeted by militants.

Tens of thousand of Yazidis have fled their homeland of Sinjar and other villages to escape a dramatic push by Islamic State fighters, who regard the ethnic minority as devil worshippers.

So far, volunteers from IAHV have airlifted just 1.5 tonnes of relief materials to the remote mountainous area and the charity called on international governments to pitch in.

"America has heeded to our call of help and yesterday they obliged with two helicopters to airlift grain. We still have several tonnes more waiting to be lifted to the people trapped in the Sinjar mountains," Sri Sri said.

The spiritual leader is currently visiting the Iraqi relief camps where thousands of Christians, Yazidis and Kurdish Shia refugees are languishing in shelters in Arbil, Duhok and Khazir.

Mawahib Shibani, the programme director for IAHV Iraq appealed for contributions. "People in the relief camps lack basic items for survival such as food, clothing and hygiene kits. They are in a very poor psychological state," he said.

Since the early stages of the insurgency in Iraq, over 1.5 million Iraqis have been internally displaced or forced to flee across borders for their safety.

To donate aid or financial support, visit www.iahv.org.