ISIS survivors urge US: Don't close door to refugees

ISIS survivors urge US: Don't close door to refugees
© Getty Images

Refugees who fled from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria urged senators on Tuesday not to close the door on others trying to escape the group's violence.

At a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on the "Ideology of ISIS," lawmakers heard from survivors and experts who pleaded for more help for refugees.

“Every country has the right to protect itself and its borders. But the people who are escaping religious discrimination and genocide, they should not face closed doors before them," said Nadia Murad, a human rights activist, who spoke through a translator.


Murad recently fled Iraq, escaping ISIS slavery. She and her family are members of the ethnic Yazidi sect that has been targeted by ISIS.

The hearing comes amid a contentious political fight over refugees.

Presumptive GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump says 'Failing New York Times' should be held 'fully accountable' over Russia report Trump tweets ICE will begin removing 'millions' of undocumented migrants MORE called for the administration to halt its plans to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year after terror attacks at home and abroad. Trump and others have warned that terrorists could infiltrate refugees coming to the west.

Trump repeated those calls after the recent mass shooting in Orlando, where a gunman pledged support to ISIS while killing 49 at a gay nightclub. But advocates for refugees note that the Orlando shooter was born in the U.S. and that banning refugees wouldn't have stopped the attacks.

The Obama administration has vowed to press ahead with its plans to resettle refugees despite criticism.

At the hearing, Subhi Nahas, a gay Syrian, said he fled to the U.S. before ISIS came to power to avoid persecution for his sexual orientation.

He said he believed it would be very difficult for a terrorist to make it through U.S. screening.

“From my experience as a refugee myself... I could say that it’s very highly unlikely... for the process to let any terrorist come," said Nahas.

"It’s a highly intense process, which takes security checks, background checks, a waiting period for over, like, a year. At least a year,” he continued.

“They ask you a lot of personal questions. For the slightest chance to let a terrorist, or a guy or girl that believes in these ideologies to pass through is highly unlikely.”

Dr. Tarek Elgawhary, director of religious studies programs at the World Organization for Resource Development and Education argued the U.S. had a moral obligation to take in refugees.

“As I understand our nation, I think it’s un-American not to accept refugees, and we have, I think, a legal, political and more importantly, moral authority to take people in that we can,” Elgawhary said.

Hassan Hassan, resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy and co-author of "ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror," added that refugees could also be helpful in the fight against ISIS.

"Thousands of Syrian refugees who left Syria and are in Turkey and Europe or the United States have been instrumental in the fight... They provide intelligence, information, mapping, guidance,” he said.