The World is yet to address the Islamic State atrocities and assist the Yazidis
August 3 marks the anniversary of the genocidal attack carried out by Daesh in Sinjar, Iraq. On that day, Daesh unleashed prohibited acts against the Yazidis, an ethno-religious minority group in Iraq.
Daesh fighters killed hundreds, if not thousands of men. As part of the same campaign, Daesh fighters abducted boys to turn them into child soldiers and women and girls for sex slavery. More than 2,700 women and children are still missing and their fate is unknown.
A few days after the attack on Sinjar, Daesh also attacked the Ninevah Plains and forced over 120,000 people to flee for their lives in the middle of the night.
The atrocities perpetrated by Daesh are being classified as genocide. Daesh committed murder, enslavement, deportation and forcible transfer of population, imprisonment, torture, abduction of women and children, exploitation, abuse, rape, sexual violence and forced marriage.
Governments, parliaments and international bodies have recognized the atrocities as crimes against humanity, war crimes and even genocide.
However, very little attention is being paid to the fact that the serious risk of this genocide was visible for many months before the fateful day of August 3, 2014, and indeed as early as 2013 if not earlier.
As such, the atrocities could have been prevented if only States acted in accordance with their duty to prevent genocide. Furthermore, very little attention is paid to the fact that this genocide is still ongoing today.
Marking the day is aimed at commemorating the victims and survivors and recognizing the nature and scale of the atrocities.
Marking the day also ultimately means recognizing that very little has been done to address the atrocities and working to reenergize the efforts to address the atrocities.
Marking the eight anniversary of the Daesh attack on Sinjar, Nadia Murad, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, raised inadequate and wrong responses to the Daesh genocide. Among others, she raised the issue of missing Yazidi women and children.
In August 2022, more than 2,700 Yazidi women and children are still missing having been abducted by Daesh in August 2014. Many of them continue to be enslaved by Daesh and little has been done to rescue then. As Nadia Murad stresses, “The international community has devoted huge amounts of time and resources to hunt down terrorists. They can and must show the same commitment to finding and rescuing their victims.” Furthermore, over eighty mass graves have been identified around Sinjar, only a small number has been exhumed. The exhumation of mass graves, identification of the victims and a proper burial must be expatiated.
Eight years after the attack on Sinjar, thousands of Yazidis continue to live in the internally displaced person (IDP) camps in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
However, as Nadia Murad stresses, and having experienced IDP camps, “IDP camps are built to be temporary solutions, but they trap you in a cycle of day-to-day survival, rather than allowing you to progress toward recovery.
Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis remain in IDP camps, with no path to start building a better life and no hope that tomorrow will be different. This lack of hope has led to high rates of suicide, increased instances of violence, early marriages, and other harm.” She called for redirecting aid to support Yazidis’ return to their homeland in Sinjar.
This includes investing in Sinjar’s infrastructure, education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. Ensuring that Yazidis can return to Sinjar and rebuild their lives there is crucial, even so as resettlement options for the community are non-existent.
However, for the Yazidis to have a future in Sinjar, they must be fully included in any decision making about their lives and the region, including through meaningful Yazidi representation in diplomatic efforts to resolve regional disputes.
Eight years later, and despite important work to collect and preserve evidence of the atrocities against the community, very little has been done to prosecute the perpetrators and this for their involvement in genocide and crimes against humanity.
Indeed, the only convictions for the Daesh genocide (and also for crimes against humanity) have been secured by German courts.
Other prosecutions of Daesh perpetrators were for terror related offenses only. Daesh perpetrators must be brought to justice for crimes that reflect the nature and severity of the atrocities perpetrated, namely, genocide and crimes against humanity.
This could be done by the International Criminal Court, if the situation was to be referred to it by the U.N. Security Council, a specially established ad-hoc tribunal, or by domestic courts relying on the principle of universal jurisdiction.
At the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Pieter Omtzigt, Dutch parliamentarian and PACE Special Rapporteur on bring Daesh to justice, is trying to revive the political will to pursue these approaches and address the delay in securing justice. His new report and resolution will be debated in October 2022.
Eight years later, survivors of the atrocities are yet waiting for reparations. As Nadia Murad noted, “reparations restore survivors’ power to make decisions and shape their own lives. So much of sexual abuse is about taking away freedom – taking away choice. It is powerful for survivors to get to choose their own path to recovery and have the resources to transform their choices into reality.”
While such reparations were meant to be provided to Yazidi survivors of sexual violence, with the Yazidi Survivors Law passed in early 2021, the law has not been implemented yet.
Eight years later, the world is yet to address the Daesh atrocities and assist the Yazidis.