Matthew Travis Barber is a PhD student studying Islamic thought and history in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Matthew was living in Iraq and performing research within the Yazidi community in 2014 when the Islamic State organization conquered significant portions of the country and began the Yazidi Genocide.
For the next several years, Matthew worked at the heart of the response to the Yazidi Genocide and served in Iraq for one year (2015-2016) as the executive director of Yazda, spearheading humanitarian projects and human rights advocacy for the Yazidis. These efforts involved mobile medical services in Sinjar Mountain, medical services in KRI-based camps, shelter and winterization for displaced families in Sinjar, food aid, livelihood assistance, support for rescued female survivors, genocide documentation (including the first public report on mass graves in Sinjar), educational projects (including the building of a school in Sinjar), and a program to preserve Yazidi religious and cultural tradition.
Matthew’s advocacy has involved extensive writing on the situation of minorities in Iraq, raising awareness of the Yazidi situation through public lectures and the media, briefings for government agencies, and proposals for congressional/parliamentary action and support.
In the fall of 2014, he helped organize the first ever Yazidi delegation to Washington, in which Yazidi religious and tribal leaders traveled from Iraq for meetings in the White House, State Department, and Capitol Hill.