- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Members of a religious minority who say they were forced to flee their homes in Iraq by Islamic extremists want to establish a cemetery in Lincoln.

Shekh Hassan, speaking through an interpreter in his apartment, told the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1RMRmSV ) that local Yazidis used to send their dead back to Iraq for burial. But the 46-year-old said that option has become more difficult and dangerous now that many Yazidi cemeteries have been destroyed or overrun by the Islamic State group.

Nearly 300 Yazidi families live in Lincoln, and Hassan - considered a religious leader among Yazidi community - said many have asked him to help establish a cemetery for them.

“If we find a spot (in Lincoln), then we’ll feel more at home,” he said. “Then we can establish roots here.”

The Islamic State group has killed many Yazidis, forced women and children into slavery and caused thousands to move away. Those who left maintain a deep connection to Yazidis still in the Middle East.

Hassan said that his aunt is currently in hiding and that his uncle recently tried to flee with his children, but suffered a heart attack during the journey. His young children are caring for him.

Hassan expressed feelings of guilt at not being to help his family in Iraq, but he said he sees an opportunity to help others by helping get a cemetery reserved for local Yazidis.

Executive director Tom Randa of the Good Neighbor Community Center is helping them establish a nonprofit to collect donations to purchase land for a cemetery.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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