Wagga's Yazidi community remember a 'Black Day'

New hope: The Mato family say they now feel safe in their Wagga home, after fleeing a harrowing ISIS attack in the Iraqi village. Kieren L Tilly.
New hope: The Mato family say they now feel safe in their Wagga home, after fleeing a harrowing ISIS attack in the Iraqi village. Kieren L Tilly.

One Wagga family say they were part of the lucky few who survived the genocide of their people. 

After living a nightmare, losing loved ones and witnessing atrocities too awful to recount, the Mato family now call Wagga home.

The Matos will, next week, join other Yazidi settlers to remember Black Day on Thursday, August 3.

It is the day ISIS militants attacked Northern Iraqi villages, killing, injuring, enslaving and displacing many. 

Shireen Mato escaped her hometown, Kocho, in 2014, with seven of her family members. 

Together, they fled to Turkey, mere days before the militants attacked their village. 

“We were a vibrant and peaceful community with an ancient religion and culture,” Ms Mato said. 

“One hundred and fifty members of our extended family were killed.”

Ms Mato said her mother, Laila, lost five of six brothers in a village nearby.

Thousands of men and women were herded into a courtyard and killed mercilessly.

The women and children, who were spared, were taken and sold. 

“We left but our family was still there,” Ms Mato said. 

“It was a bad, horrible day.”

She said when the plane touched down in Australia this year, it symbolised the start of a new life, a new freedom and new opportunities. 

But Ms Mato said many were still waiting for a place to call home.

She said one of her sisters and her sister’s children were abducted and sold four times before they escaped to Germany. Another sister remains in Iraq, unable to flee the constant danger. 

“Others are still in Iraq, waiting for a generous country like Australia to offer them a chance to rebuild,” Ms Mato said. 

“Our healing process is beginning … to be truly free and happy, we need our friends and relatives to be safe too.”

She said her people were still awaiting justice. 

“The whole world knows of the terrorism ISIS commits,” Ms Mato said. 

“For the Yazidis, it is important that the attacks against our people … are officially recognised as genocide.” 

She said perpetrators needed to be held accountable for crimes of mass murder, abduction, torture, human trafficking and slavery. 

“Tragedy does not define us,” Ms Mato said. 

“We are strong resilient people.”

She said arriving in Australia was like being given a second chance to achieve her dreams. 

“We are truly grateful for the warm welcome we have received,” Ms Mato said. 

“You have made us feel human again.”

More than 50 Yazidi families will gather at Mount Austin Hall for a remembrance service from 4.30pm.