Human Rights Human Rights
Photo Credit: Mirza Dinnayi

Mirza Dinnayi, a Warrior of the Heart

Flying the skies of Northern Iraq, the Soviet-era helicopter malfunctioned and headed straight for the ground.

The impact of the crash killed the pilot and injured many passengers, many of whom were Yazidis rescued from Mount Sinjar, escaping from ISIS persecution. Mirza Dinnayi, 47, survived the accident, sustaining broken ribs and a broken leg.

Photo Credit: Mirza Dinnayi

Dinnayi, founder of Air Bridge Iraq and part of a humanitarian mission to provide food and water to his fellow Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar, told Strike Source: “Every day for a week, we had 3-4 missions to bring food and water and to evacuate children and women to Kurdistan. I will never forget those images. I cried every day.”

As he recovered from his injuries, Dinnayi continued to assist the Yazidi people from a wheelchair.

No stranger to acting in the face of terror, Dinnayi started Air Bridge Iraq after Al-Qaeda terrorists killed 300 Yazidis in 2007. “I was working in Germany at the time. I started a humanitarian mission and collected money. I came to Iraq directly to help those people in both villages. There were many injured children, and the medical facilities in Iraq were awful,” Mirza said.

After successfully bringing Yazidi children to Germany for medical treatment, Air Bridge Iraq became an NGO.

Some women and children were able to escape from ISIS captivity, relocating to refugee camps in Iraq’s Kurdistan. Surviving severe physical and mental trauma, they required top tier medical and psychological care. To fulfill the dire need of the women and children, Air Bridge Iraq enlisted the German government’s help.

Photo Credit: Mirza Dinnayi

Dinnayi said of Air Bridge Iraq’s efforts: “I led the office as a local partner in Germany. We transferred about 1,100 Christian, Yazidi, women and children from Iraq to Germany in 2015. I met with two women who just came out of the refugee camps. They spoke about how they were raped multiple times during ISIS captivity. All of the Yazidi women activists who now have prominent voices, many of those young women were utterly destroyed.”

Air Bridge Iraq doesn’t only focus on providing relief and refuge for women and children impacted by the brutality of ISIS. For those who became child soldiers, Dinnayi’s organization is offering rehabilitation.

“We now have a program to help young boys in captivity of ISIS. These boys whose parents were killed by ISIS and became child soldiers. They were indoctrinated into religious schools and radicalized by ISIS. After the fall of ISIS, these children were liberated,” Dinnayi said. “They now live in the refugee camps in Kurdistan. I helped create a program for the social rehabilitation of these children. The project will help reintegrate these kids back into society.”

Having helped organize the transfer of over 1,000 Christian and Yazidi women, Dinnayi is an Aurora Humanitarian Award 2019 laureate. The Aurora Humanitarian Award is given to individuals who make an “exceptional impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes.”

Several renowned human rights activists were transported to Germany by Air Bridge Iraq, including Lamya Haji Bashar, and Nadia Murad. Murad is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Additionally, she addressed the UN Security Council’s first-ever session on human trafficking with a compelling speech about her experiences.

Mirza Dinnayi with Nadia Murad and Lamya Bashar. Photo Credit: Mirza Dinnayi

Thanks to Dinnayi and his organization, many Yazidis were not only given both their lives back, but were also given a voice on the world stage. In Germany, many of the people Air Bridge Iraq has aided are now integrating back into the community.

“Now we have hundreds of Yazidi women who came to Germany attending university, many are working. The situation has become very positive. Many young women are active in the community after being liberated. They are now changing all those negative experiences to something positive,” Dinnayi said.