Twenty-seven Yazidi women arrived in France with their children on Wednesday from Iraq, fulfilling President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to take in 100 families from the ethnic group who were victims of assault by ISIS terrorist group.
The families were greeted at Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris by Eric Chevallier, head of the foreign ministry’s crisis management division, according to AFP reporters at the scene.
“Your children are going to go to school, you’re going to make friends,” Chevallier said, after they arrived from Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Many of the children were still quite young, but others were adolescents, some dressed up in suits and ties for the occasion.
“What we’ve lived through these past five years is unimaginable. Today France is opening its arms to us, we can only be grateful,” 30-year-old mother Turko told AFP.
“The first thing we would like to do is learn the language, send our children to school and learn French culture. Afterward our children will decide what they want to do with their lives.”
The government is not releasing the names of the families, as they were long persecuted by ISIS fighters and many still fear for their lives.
Some were held in sexual slavery and struggled to regain a place in Yazidi society, others had to flee their homes as men died while trying to resist the ISIS advance.
“They have high expectations,” said Giovanni Cassani, head of the International Organization for Migration in Erbil, who accompanied the women on their flight.
“On the one hand it was difficult to leave their country of origin, their family, their village, but there is also the excitement of starting a new life in a new country, with plenty of possibilities,” he said.
The families were put on buses to be taken to different regions of France, officials said.
With the 27 women who arrived Wednesday, the foreign ministry said France had taken in 102 Yazidi families since last December.
Macron pledged in October 2018 to bring to France 100 Yazidi women who were targeted for sexual assault in northern Iraq beginning in 2014.
The offer came following a meeting in Paris with Nadia Murad after she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign to end sexual violence as a weapon of war.
Murad was one of thousands of Yazidi women captured by ISIS fighters before they were driven out of Sinjar and other parts of Iraq, starting with campaigns by Kurdish forces backed by US-led coalition forces.