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At news conference, Franks, Yazidis demand more action against ISIL

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PHOENIX – Joined by a Republican congressman, Arizonans who are members of an ethnic and religious group from the Middle East said Thursday the United States isn’t doing enough to stop violence perpetrated by the Islamic State group.

“Women have been used as sex slaves by ISIS fighters and have been sold in public markets just like they were in the old caliphate,” said Farhad Jundi, a spokesman for the Yazidis in Arizona

U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, called the news conference in front of the State Capitol to address what he termed the unwillingness of the Obama administration to stop atrocities against non-Sunni groups, including Yazidis, by ISIS, also referred to as ISIL.

“The Yazidi population has been some of the very hardest hit of all of the different religious groups,” Franks said. “Absent immediate action, we will most certainly witness the annihilation of an ancient faith community from the lands they have inhabited for centuries.”

Franks said that he was one of 55 lawmakers who petitioned Secretary of State John Kerry to provide aid to Christian minorities in Iraq.

Yazidis are an ethnic and religious group that has been a small but significant part of the Middle East for centuries, with historical populations in Syria, Iran and Iraq, among other places.

There are around 120 Yazidis across Arizona, most of whom have relatives in Middle East, Jundi said.

They are not Muslim, and because of that they have suffered from religious persecution by ISIL forces, being forced to convert to Islam or be executed, Jundi said.

Jundi said that nearly 600,000 Yazidis have been displaced and hundreds more murdered during ISIL’s campaign in Iraq and Syria.

“They do not hesitate in killing anyone, so let’s not hesitate on fighting them in any way,” Jundi said. “Airstrikes, boots on the ground, anything that will stop them from killing innocent people wherever they are.”

Though President Barack Obama has approved airstrikes and special operations against ISIL, the United States has yet approved combat troops in Iraq. The decision to withhold troops has drawn criticism from Franks and other Republican lawmakers.

Franks said the president’s decision to withdraw ground troops from Iraq in 2011 led to the current “targeted religious cleansing” that ISIL is responsible for.

“I believe that President Obama owes George Bush an apology, along with the men and women who freed Iraq, and then watched their blood-bought gains evaporate while this president stood by with a golf club in his hands as women and children were beheaded, crucified, raped and sold into slavery,” Franks said.

Though he declined to mention exactly what action he would like to see the president take against the Islamic State group, he said he would like a “major offensive.”

“We will never defeat ISIS until we confront them on a strategic level,” Franks said.