Yazidi 'superhero' earns award for helping survivors of ISIS atrocities

The Bond Humanitarian Award has been given to aid worker Bassam Hawas Quru, who is helping people displaced by violence in northern Iraq.

Courtesy of International Medical Corps
Yazidi aid worker Bassam Hawas Quru has been named the recipient of the Bond Humanitarian Award, which recognizes hidden "superheroes" working in the humanitarian field.

A young Yazidi father-of-four who risked his life to help survivors of Islamic State atrocities in northern Iraq has won a prestigious award for his humanitarian work.

Bassam Hawas Quru, who works for International Medical Corps, told how he became an aid worker after Islamic State overran his Sinjar homeland, massacring thousands of his people and enslaving others.

Hawas Quru, named winner of the Bond Humanitarian Award, which recognizes hidden "superheroes" working in the humanitarian field, said 11 members of his family were captured by militants as they tried to escape.

His grandmother and baby cousin died in captivity. Another two uncles are still being held, their whereabouts unknown.

"The story of the Yazidis forced to flee the Islamic State genocide shocked the world in 2014, but the story of those who returned, who today risk their lives to help others, is still to be recognized," said International Medical Corps spokeswoman Larissa Schneider-Kim.

U.N. experts have accused Islamic State of committing genocide against the Yazidis, one of Iraq's oldest minorities.

Hawas Quru, now 27, joined International Medical Corps after he and his family found safety at Mamilyan camp near Akre. As a community health worker he risked his life last year by traveling to newly liberated villages in a region still harboring Islamic State sympathizers.

"It was dangerous work. We did house visits. We didn't know exactly whether the people there would be supporters of Islamic State or not, whether they would be armed or not," he said.

"But I was not scared. I was committed to helping the people there," Hawas Quru told the Thomson Reuters Foundation last week after winning the award.

Hawas Quru, who now works in Kapartu camp where 28,000 displaced people are living, has helped survivors deal with psychological trauma, organized vaccinations for children and worked on health campaigns to reduce communicable diseases.

The Yazidis are a religious community of around 400,000 people whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions.

Islamic State militants, who have denounced them as infidels, continue to hold thousands captive including many girls and women who have been traded as sex slaves.

Before the massacre, Hawas Quru worked as a dental assistant, living with his parents, wife and four children in a village to the north of Mount Sinjar, near the Syrian border.

Hawas Quru said his aunt was pregnant when she was kidnapped by militants but her baby died in captivity.

"Two of my uncles remain in captivity – we do not know where they are," he said, speaking through an interpreter by phone from Erbil in northern Iraq.

Militants released the seven other captured family members following payment of a $70,000 ransom.

Hawas Quru says he lives in hope that all Yazidis will eventually be freed and he and his family can live in peace.

"I dream of a day when Iraq can be free from war, and when all Iraqis – whether Arab, Kurdish, Sunni, Shia, Yazidi or any other religion – can live in peace without discrimination," he said.

Editing by Ros Russell. This story originally appeared on the website of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption, and climate change. Visit www.news.trust.org.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Yazidi 'superhero' earns award for helping survivors of ISIS atrocities
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today