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Remembering the Yezidi Genocide

Nechirvan Barzani with Yazidi community leaders.

On this day, the international community marks the Yezidi genocide. On August 3th 2014, 40,000 Yezidis got stranded on Mount Sinjar. Since that date, horrific stories of sexual slavery, massacres and torture have emerged from the women who managed to escape from ISIS’ grip. On the first day of the genocide, 1,293 people were killed. From the first day of the genocide until 15th  August 2014, 6,470 people were kidnapped.

According to Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, who delivered a speech on the Yezidi Genocide Memorial Day, the Kidnapping Affairs Office (which is part of the Kurdistan’s Prime Minister’s Office) has managed to rescue 3,092 out of this number with 1,102 of them being women, 335 of them being men and 840 being girls under 18. Khairi Bozani, who represents the Yezidis in the Religious Affairs Ministry and supervises the Kidnappings Office, stressed that 1,600 Yezidi children were trained by ISIS in two ways. They received either ISIS Islamic instruction or military training. Nechirvan Barzani has succeeded to rescue some of them but others are still in ISIS captivity.

Khairi Bozani added that the Yezidi officials asked everyone to help them with the rescue efforts. Nechirvan Barzani opened up a case and that case became an office. Some Yezidis work there to rescue their kidnapped brethren: “We called everyone to help with the rescue efforts but no one came in the international community except Nechirvan Barzani, who has financed the rescue of Yezidis.” On the anniversary of the Yezidi Genocide, Barzani met with 30 girls in Duhok who were rescued by him in order to hear their stories and to ask about their needs.

Khairi Bozani blames the international community for not helping the Yezidis enough: “What happened to the Yezidis is genocide by all definitions. The international community did not do anything to rescue them. Even when Nechirvan Barzani rescues people, the international community does not come to help them. Sinjar is in our zone till now. The Shia militias are also there. Turkey also bombarded the place for the PKK is there. We call on the international community to help.”

However, the lack of response from the international community is not the only issue facing the Yezidis in their struggle to have their genocide recognized. Hussin Hassam is the Yezidi representative for the High Governmental Commission on the Yezidi Genocide that was established by Nechirvan Barzani: “Our commission visited the ICC and a lot of other international organizations to push the international community to recognize as genocide the crimes committed against the Yezidis. Unfortunately, we have been facing a lot of issues for the government in Baghdad is not cooperating with KRG in seeking global international justice for Iraq is not willing to bring groups to The Hague. We need to make a declaration to get the ICC to start a criminal case for these cases and that is why the Prime Minister has decided to do everything possible for the establishment of a special international court like in Rwanda.”

Because not all of the areas where ISIS committed crimes are under the KRG control presently and because the government in Baghdad is not cooperating, the KRG presently is forced to only begin a case regarding what happened in the southern side of the Sinjar Mountains: “This case is still open. We are trying to do our best to get a judicial ruling. We have gotten a lot of recognition of it as a genocide but so far, it was political for it was done by governments and international organizations. However, the KRG wants a judicial case.”

“The KRG still feels the pain of what happened three years ago,” Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said. “The KRG will do its best to reduce the pain of what happened to our beloved Yezidis. The acts of ISIS went beyond all cruelty.” Nechirvan Barzani emphasized that it was the Iraqi army that failed the Yezidis and other peoples of Nineveh in 2014 by running away instead of fighting ISIS: “It is clear to all that fighting terrorism and protection in Nineveh was the responsibility of the Iraqi forces. They had advanced weapons and all they needed. But when five Iraqi army divisions took off their uniform and ran away, they left behind the best and most advanced weapons to ISIS which they used to attack the Nineveh plains and the beloved Shingal region in particular.”

The Prime Minister said that the arms Peshmerga had in possession were no match for the advanced weaponry ISIS had just seized from the Iraqi army: “When ISIS came with those weapons, they were more advanced than our Peshmerga. And with the old weapons they had in their hands, there was no way the Peshmerga could defend Shingal.”

According to Mahma Khalil, the PKK is inhibiting the rebuilding of the Sinjar Region today, stressing that some people cannot go back to their lands due to the PKK creating issues for them. Khalil emphasized that some people are also afraid since the PKK kidnaps children and trains them to join their group. For this reason, between the Shia Militias and the PKK, the Yezidi people in Mount Sinjar are not able to rebuild their lives in their ancestral homeland.

 
  • Charles Steinberg

    Very illuminating article. I remember the genocide when it happened and the failures of the Iraqi forces at the time. Obviously they have improved since then in order to retake Mosul, but I wonder why? Iranian and/or USA aid? Wasn’t aware of the adverse effects of PKK. Is Erdogan correct that PKK are terrorists and how are they viewed by KRG?

Author

Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent for the Israel Resource News Agency. She is based in Israel and publishes in a variety of media outlets throughout the world. She is the author of "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media." Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University and a BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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