Welcome Home!

The first two sponsored Yazidi families arrived in Winnipeg on July 11, welcomed at the airport by family, friends, community members and supporters.


Check out the photos of their arrival here!


Watch CBC's video of the arrival here!

Operation Ezra and the Yazidi Refugees


The first privately sponsored Yazidi refugee family has arrived in Winnipeg. The family, sponsored by the Operation Ezra coalition of Winnipeg, arrived from the Midyat refugee camp in southern Turkey.


Operation Ezra is the only comprehensive Yazidi refugee relief project in Canada and indeed in the world. Its goal is to sponsor and welcome, house and support 7 Yazidi families (42 individuals). This is an unprecedented community-wide undertaking involving dedicated community members from all walks of life. Initiated by the local advocacy group Winnipeg Friends of Israel, it began as a grass roots effort that has grown into a coalition involving organizations from the Jewish and multifaith communities such as Jewish Child and Family Service, Mennonite Central Committee, Manitoba Multifaith Council, Calvary Temple, and Bridges for Peace as well as countless local Jewish agencies and individuals who have donated useful household and personal items, time and skills. Businesses have provided kitchenware, linens and towels and warehouse space for the household items. The Salvation Army will be providing beds and mattresses as well as vouchers for their thrift stores. Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, National Council of Jewish Women as well as the Young Adult Division of the Jewish Federation have carried out various drives to collect furniture and furnishings. 


A special note about the involvement of youth in the project: Gray Academy students purchased household items for the refugees, BBYO (B’nai Brith Youth Organization) and university students have helped sort and move furniture. 


Upon their arrival, Operation Ezra will assist the refugees to secure appropriate housing and provide assistance with transportation, grocery shopping and adapting to their new lives. Jewish Child and Family Service will provide a variety of settlement services. The Rose and Max Rady Jewish Community Centre has offered children of the first families places at their summer day camps. In addition, a committee of community volunteers will welcome the families and do what they can to make the Yazidi refugees feel comfortable and welcome in their new home.


The Jewish Community undertook Operation Ezra (the Hebrew word for help) because it was the right thing to do. The Yazidis are an ancient ethno-religious group who originated in Mesopotamia and are based primarily in Iraq. They have been subjected to over 73 massacres throughout history and today are being slaughtered and tortured. Women and girls are being sold into sex slavery by ISIS. The Yazidis are a monotheistic people without a homeland and whose population has been decimated: once 23 million, today only 700,000 Yazidis remain. 


Operation Ezra is grateful for the community's ongoing interest and support and will continue to provide updates as information on the sponsored families becomes available.


To support this rescue operation financially, readers can donate online here.

The Yazidi People


History and Current Crisis

  • One of the oldest religious and ethnic minorities in the world, the Yazidis have faced religious persecution for over 700 years.
  • Having suffered over 70 massacres over the course of their history, their population has been decimated from 23 million to only approximately 700,000 today.
  • It is one of the longest ongoing hatreds perpetrated against a people for religious reasons. The persecution of the Yazidi people precedes the current conflict in the region and will continue long after.
  • In August of 2014, a large-scale massacre took place in Sinjar, in the Ninveh province. Over 5,000 Yazidi people were killed and 50,000 displaced. 3,000 to 5,000 remain hostage to ISIL. Sinjar was destroyed. There is no home for the Yazidi people to return to.
  • Yazidi girls and women as young as nine years of age are being sold into sexual slavery by ISIL fighters, raped and tortured. Often, they are resold to other countries as far away as Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
  • Mass graves have been discovered containing the bodies of Yazidi women who ISIL have executed because they were considered to be “too old” to be used as sexual slaves.
  • Young Yazidi boys are kidnapped and brainwashed by ISIL to become fighters.
  • Captured Yazidi men are forcibly converted to Islam but many are subsequently executed.
  • Aid workers have documented the fact that Yazidi people in refugee camps in Iraq are facing danger from other refugee groups who would do them harm.
  • Today, the Yazidi refugees find themselves in segregated camps in Syria and Turkey where they are not welcomed nor treated with equanimity.
  • There is no longer any doubt that a Genocide is being perpetrated against the Yazidi people:
    • The United Nations Human Rights Office  (in its Report on the human rights situation in Iraq in the light of abuses committed by ISIL and associated groups dated March 13, 2015*) declared: “ISIL’s attacks on the Yezidi population “pointed to the intent of ISIL to destroy the Yezidi as a group.” The report says, which “strongly suggests” that ISIL may have perpetrated genocide.” **
    • The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued a report in November of 2015 entitled, “Our Generation is Gone: The Targeting of Religious Minorities in Iraq.” The report states "We believe IS has been and is perpetrating genocide against the Yezidi people.” ***


Demographics - Worldwide and Canada

  • Total Yazidi population worldwide estimated at 700,000 with approximately 500,000 scattered throughout Iraq; 100,000 in UNHCR camps in Syria and Turkey and 100,000 in Europe (mostly Germany).
  • In Canada, the Yazidi population is estimated at approximately 400 (220 in London Ontario and 180 in Winnipeg).


** Source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=50369#.Vlt5eYSSaOp
***Source: http://www.ushmm.org/m/pdfs/Iraq-Bearing-Witness-Report-111215.pdf


OPERATION EZRA COMMUNITY PARTNERS:  Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation  •  B’nai Brith Camp  •  Bridges for Peace  •  Calvary Temple  •  Camp Massad  •  Chevra Mishnayes Synagogue  •  Congregation Etz Chayim  •  Congregation Shaarey Zedek  •  Gray Academy of Jewish Education  •  Jewish Child and Family Service  •  Jewish Federation of Winnipeg  •  Jewish Foundation of Manitoba  •  Manitoba Multifaith Council  •  National Council of Jewish Women  •  Pembina Mennonite Fellowship Church  •  Rady Jewish Community Centre  •  Saul & Claribel Simkin Centre  •  Temple Shalom  •  Winnipeg Friends of Israel  •  Winnipeg Yazidi Community


How you can help






Latest News


May 2017: Operation Ezra Update

July 12: Welcome home! Photos of arrival

July 12: Video of arrival in Winnipeg (CBC)

July 11: Yazidi family finds new home in Winnipeg (CBC)

July 6: New photos with Andrew Smith

June 20: Anticipation of their new home...

April 25: Young Yazidi refugee drew Canadian flag...

April 18: See pictures...

April 2016: Midyat Refugee camp...

February 2016: First 2 families are due...




Primary Objectives


  • Raise Awareness of the Yazidi Plight within the Community at large
  • Sponsor as many Yazidi families as possible to Winnipeg in partnership with the local Yazidi Community for successful resettlement.



Project Status


First two Yazidi families arrived July 11.


  • Operation Ezra, the initiative to rescue and settle Yazidi refugees, began as a grass roots movement with Winnipeg Friends of Israel but has evolved into a multi-community coalition.
  • Organizations such as Jewish Child and Family Service, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, Mennonite Central Committee, Manitoba Multi-Faith Council, Calvary Temple, Bridges for Peace, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, Rady JCC as well as countless other agencies and individuals have been involved in various aspects of the initiative. We are proud to be working with the Yazidi community on this initiative.
  • Individuals, organizations and agencies have provided advice, donated funds and useful household and personal items, storage space, time and skills
  • Operation Ezra has created awareness of the plight of Yazidis, lobbied government and coordinated volunteer efforts and fundraising.
  • Over $250,000 has been raised to date to fund the rescue operation.
  • The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg is providing administrative support
  • “This is a private initiative undertaken by the Jewish community and many other local partners. Saving the Yazidi people from genocide is an obligation and a responsibility we all have.” – Michel Aziza
  • “Our scriptures say …’whosoever saves a life it is as if he has saved an entire world’, says Al Benarroch, CEO of Jewish Child and Family Service – the agency that will provide assistance in resettling the refugees” “Our settlement services will provide integration services from assistance with housing, school and childcare to career counseling services and basic acclimatization” – Al Benarroch
  • For more information, contact Michel Aziza, Operation Ezra Committee.