Yezidi Cultural Immersion Night Draws Hundreds

On Aug. 31, over 200 people gathered at North Point Community Church to learn about Yezidis culture and listen to their stories, during an event was organized by Jared Bennett,  a member of the church.

Lincoln residents gather at North Pointe Community Church in August to learn more about Yezidi culture. North Star has many Yezidi students.
Photo by Nibras Khudaida/GG Staff

In 2014, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) persecuted Yezidis in the Shingal and Shekhan areas. They took girls as slaves, killed thousands of men, and trained Yezidi children to be ISIS fighters. This persecution is recognized as Yezidi Genocide.

Since then, many Yezidis have fled to Europe and North America. Now, Yezidis come to Lincoln to build new homes for themselves. According to United Yezidi Community of America organization, the Yezidi population is approximately 2,200 in Lincoln alone.

Zeyad Essa, a member of the Yezidi community, shared his journey from Iraq to the United States during the event. Essa worked with the American Army and U.S. Embassy as an interpreter in Iraq and came with his family to the United States two years ago.

“I always get help from people in Lincoln. Some of them I have never met before. They always message me saying; We are here for you; and Do not think you are alone,” Essa said.

Essa plans to go to Houston to help people rebuild their lives and get back to normal. Essa said, “This is something that reminds me of what happen to Yezidis in Iraq and I feel how much they need help. People in America deserve my time and money and everything because this is what our forefathers taught us.”

Tim Branum, volunteered at the event and is the sponsor of the Yezidi club at North Star. Branum said, “We love our Yezidi friends. We would love Yezidis to be independent. That is the idea of the American dream.”

Tim helps many Yezidis students with applications, resumes, and many other things that would help them start a new life in the U.S.

Amanda Branum, wife of Tim Branum, is an English teacher who teaches many Yezidis the English language. Amanda thinks organizing events to get Americans and Yezidis together is important. “American people do not know who Yezidis are and I think it is important for them to learn. They need to know the stories about what Yezidis people have been through.”

“We do culture lessons as well. We explain to them our holidays, so parents would be able to understand their children, because many students will have school off and bring projects to home about American culture or holidays.” Amanda said

Rev. Lawrence Moffet is a senior pastor from the First United Methodist Church who attended the event to support Yezidis and learn about their stories in order to help them better. Moffet said, “This [event] let’s us know how far we have to go to make sure everybody is safe where everybody is in a place of peace.”

Yezidis are building a home for themselves in Nebraska. The United Yezidi Community in America (UYCA) recently purchased 20 acres of land in Malcolm. They are planning to build a place for gathering and religious ceremonies.

More than 4,000 Yezidis live in the United States and still do not have a temple or a place to practice their religion.