San Diego attorney Jacqueline Isaac, 29, is a woman on a mission — several missions — not least among them hauling fresh, non-weaponry supplies through war zones to Kurdish female fighting units in Iraq.
“We’ve been to Iraq three times since December and we’re getting ready to go back again,” she says. “First, we’ve got to fill the containers with more supplies for the Yazidis, Christians, and other religious minorities.”
Isaac’s first 40-foot Iraq-bound container taught her just about everything a international cargo-shipping logistician needs to know — the hard way. “Just getting the container from one place to another and finding a place to put it so we could fill the thing was a challenge.”
Isaac rallied community and church leaders across Southern California in late 2014 as she worked to feed the container’s gaping 2400-cubic-foot cargo space. To that end, the ambitious millennial hauled her aluminum-and-steel monster from destinations ranging from a San Diego County Sheriffs Department yard, then to a warehouse right around the corner from Knott’s Berry Farm in Orange County’s Buena Park.
“It was our first container, and we learned a lot,” she says. It soon became clear that finding a permanent staging area, a warehouse large enough to hold at least a couple of containers at a time, would be necessary.
In addition to her full-time job in the probate field, Isaac stretches the roughly $300,000 budget of her nonprofit charity Roads of Success far enough to pack shipping containers full of footwear, medicine, clothing, blankets, and personal hygiene products. Two more Roads of Success containers are now en route to Iraq, while another is being filled at a San Diego warehouse that another charitable group recently agreed to share with Isaac’s organization.
The supplies now being loaded will end up in the hands of Iraq’s religious minorities, huge numbers of whom have been displaced by the onslaught of so-called “Islamic State” militants. More than 7000 Yazidi and other Kurdish women have become soldiers after their cities, towns and villages were decimated by militants.
“The women and girls I’ve met on Mount Sinjar are so inspiring,” Isaac says. “First they were victims of ISIS. Now they are now fighting back — as soldiers. The least we can do is help them by sharing what we are so blessed to have.”
Isaac works with her mother, Arabic television personality, Yvette Isaac, 56, to bring medical supplies, material essentials, and even counseling to Yazidi and Christian Kurds, non-Kurdish Iraqi Christians and other Iraqis who have been brought to the brink of total destruction by war.
Headquartered in Los Angeles and San Diego, Roads of Success supplies — with non-lethal aid — the female fighting units that make up about 30 percent of Kurdish and Peshmerga forces battling the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
Jacqueline Isaac says help fulfilling her and her mother’s mission has come from local officials and organizations, including San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts and the San Diego County Deputy Sheriffs Association in the form of thermal blankets and shoes.
“We bring them just about anything you can fit into a shipping container except, of course, weapons,” the younger Isaac says. “Ours is strictly a humanitarian effort.”
Isaac’s delicate, elegant appearance belies her apparent fearlessness. Both she and her mother are well aware of the dangers in trekking across some of the bloodiest battlefields and terrorist-held terrain on earth. But they try to keep the danger in perspective.
“We have been to places where you can see the black flag of ISIS flying in the distance,” Jacqueline says. “You have to be careful, but you also have to use whatever fear you have to help you plan carefully. Then, you just have to put your fear aside.”
She points to the Yazidi and Kurdish women and young girls she’s met and helped in Iraq as “better examples of courage” because they have weathered murders of their relatives and attempts to dehumanize them through rape and human trafficking. “They are the ones who have shown us how to overcome fear while holding on to dignity and hope,” says Isaac. “We have to help these girls and these women — we don’t have a choice.”
But Isaac and her mother do have a choice. They could do what most of us do: hear about the kidnappings, rapes, and murders of women and girls as young as 5 by radical-Islamist militant groups like Boko Haram or the self-proclaimed Islamic State, and shake our heads in disgust — or mutter “jeez, what’s wrong with this world?” and carry on with our comfortable lives. That’s not enough for Jacqueline and Yvette Isaac. “When you see the faces of mothers, daughters, sisters and cousins who have joined the military to protect each other from these ISIS monsters, you see your own family; you see yourself,” Isaac says. “In spite of what they have been through, there’s still light in their eyes. You can still see hope and innocence even in the eyes of the ones whose innocence was taken by DAeSh... by ISIS.”
Isaac was stunned by the level of desperation she found among the Yazidi women, children and elderly men still clinging to life atop Mount Sinjar the first time she arrived there with supplies.
“These people were in starvation mode,” she says. “We weren’t giving them food, and they weren’t literally starving; I mean they had gone so long without anything like fresh blankets and clothing, lotion for their skin, soap to clean with. They were exposed to the harsh elements and their skin — my God, they were slowly dying from exposure to the incredibly dry, sometimes freezing and sometimes burning-hot wind on top of this mountain. They were desperate for any relief.”
ISIS and Religious Minorities
Video of that first trip shows Isaac handing out blankets, clothing, shoes, and toiletries to the Yazidi survivors on the mountain, most of whom are female civilians and female soldiers. The footage reveals a tenuously composed Jacqueline Isaac concealing an overwrought state beneath her facade. Stress hit hard after a 120-mile-per-hour streak across the desert floor through a narrow corridor where brutal fighting between the Kurds and ISIS still raged on its flanks.