In Nebraska, Yazidis Are Paralyzed by Guilt

LINCOLN, Neb. (Los Angeles Times/MCT) -

When they cook, they weep, knowing their relatives in Iraq have nothing to eat. When they see their beds, they think of those who were trapped on a mountaintop who must sleep on nothing but rocks.

Many members of the Yazidi community here say they have stopped eating, sleeping and going to work. Surrounded by cornfields and sports fans, they stare at their phones and wait for news from northern Iraq, as if connected to their kin by a psychic tether.

A nurse, Sharifa Khalil, 26, said more than 20 people had been hospitalized for stress-related reasons, including dehydration and fainting.

Hakima Antar, 26, sat on the floor of a crowded apartment where Yazidis had gathered, weeping quietly and clutching a napkin. “I feel guilty when I see food or when I eat,” she said through an interpreter. “I look at the food and I can’t even eat, because they are hungry over there. … I can’t even sleep.”

Antar was among those who went to a hospital because of stress. She said her sister and her sister’s five children have been trapped on Mount Sinjar.

The Lincoln community, thought to number in the hundreds, has been inundated with videos and images of relatives and children begging for help. Islamic State propaganda and horror stories from Iraq of starvation, dehydration and enslavement of Yazidi women have devastated what is thought to be the largest American community of this ancient religious sect.

Although the stories from Iraq cannot be independently confirmed, Yazidis here have no doubt of their relatives’ plight. No doubt, and much fear.