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After three years of genocide, Yazidis still waiting for justice

An Iraqi Yazidi girl takes part in a protest outside the United Nations office in the Iraqi city of Arbil, on August 2, 2015 in support of women from their community who have been kidnapped by the Islamic State group
Safin Hamed (AFP/File)
Over 1,600 abducted Yazidi women and girls and 1,700 Yazidi men and boys remain unaccounted for

Yazidi genocide survivors and human rights groups on Thursday marked three years since the Islamic State unleashed unspeakable horrors on this small ethno-religious minority in northern Iraq, lamenting that the genocide against the Yazdi people remains ongoing to this day and demanding an international response to the atrocities.

"The genocide is ongoing and remains largely unaddressed, despite the obligation of States...to prevent and to punish the crime," the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said on Thursday.

"Thousands of Yazidi men and boys remain missing and the terrorist group continues to subject some 3,000 women and girls in Syria to horrific violence including brutal daily rapes and beatings."

On August 3, 2014, as the Islamic State swept through Iraq and Syria declaring swathes of the two countries as part of their so-called ‘Islamic caliphate’, the jihadist group launched a targeted offensive on northern Iraq’s Mount Sinjar region with the openly-stated goal of eliminating the estimated 700,000 Yazidis concentrated in the area.

The Yazidis, an ancient ethno-religious minority whose beliefs incorporate elements of Christianity, Islam, and other traditions, had been deemed ‘kfir’ (‘non-believers’) and devil-worshipers by the Islamic State.

CHRISTOPHE SIMON (AFP)

Over the next several weeks, ISIS summarily executed thousands of Yazidi men and captured thousands of Yazidi women, subjecting them to physical abuse and sexual enslavement. Yazidi children were recruited as child soldiers and forced to convert to Islam under threat of death, while Yazidi religious and cultural sites were reduced to rubble.

Three years after the genocide, over 1,600 abducted women and girls and 1,700 men and boys remain unaccounted for, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. At least 44 mass graves have been uncovered in the Mount Sinjar region alone.

“It is shameful that three years after the genocide began, no ISIS member has been held to account for it in a court of law,” Amal Clooney, legal counsel for Yazidi genocide survivors said in a statement released jointly by the Yazda Global Yazidi Organization, Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, and Global Citizen group.

Nadia Murad, a former Yazidi captive and UN Goodwill Ambassador, said that while liberating Iraq from the scourge of the Islamic State is a crucial step towards justice, it is not enough.

“ISIS members must also be held accountable for their crimes and a comprehensive reconciliation strategy must be established in consultation with all affected communities to ensure that the cycle of violence, discrimination and oppression against my people, the Yazidis, and other minorities in Iraq is broken,” she said in a statement.

Murad, who recently visited Israel as part of global advocacy efforts to see nation states formally recognize the genocide, emerged as the voice of the Yazidi people’s suffering when she testified before the United Nations Security Council following a daring escape from sexual enslavement by the group.

“For three years, ISIS has stolen the authorship of the Yazidi story. But we will not let them write our future,” Murad told a group of activists and academics in Tel Aviv late last month, urging Israel to join the United Nations, Canada, United States, France, and the United Kingdom in formally recognizing the Yazidi genocide.

But beyond global recognition, survivors of the genocide and human rights groups continue to demand that the international community take concrete actions towards justice for the Yazidis.

“We call upon the Iraqi government and the international community to work together to bring to justice members of ISIS who have perpetrated international crimes. The UN Security Council should immediately establish and international investigative commission to collect, preserve, and analyze evidence of ISIS’s atrocities in Iraq,” the Yazda Global Yazidi Organization, Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, and Global Citizen group said in their statement.

“In order to defeat ISIS, and to counter violent extremism wherever it manifests itself, the international community must show that it will not allow the perpetrators of the genocide against the Yazidis to escape punishment,” they added.

See also:

Former Islamic State captive says Israel a beacon of hope for Yazidis

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