Yazidis: The Endless Tragedy

Publication Date: 
Friday, August 10, 2018
Tom Westcott/IRIN

This guest blog comes to us from Abdulrazzaq (Razzaq) al-Saiedi. The original version appeared on the Physicians for Human Rights blog.

ISIS has been defeated and the organizational structure of its so-called Islamic State has collapsed, liberating almost all its occupied territories. However, the tragedy for the people of the religious Yazidi minority continues. More than 3,000 Yazidis, mostly women and children, remain in ISIS captivity, while most of the Yazidi population still lives in Internally Displaced Persons camps, unable to return to their homes. The Yazidis have not seen a single tangible step toward justice and remedy.

On this date, August 3, four years ago, ISIS launched an attack on the Sinjar area, about 75 miles west of Mosul, where most of the Yazidis have lived for at least a thousand years. The goal for ISIS was not only to occupy Sinjar, but also to erase this small minority group from the earth by committing genocide. Unfortunately, they were successful: the UN and the United States, among others, have recognized what happened to the Yazidis as a genocide. During its attack on Sinjar, ISIS killed the Yazidi men and took children and women as slaves. Many of them, especially young girls, were sold multiple times to many slave owners. The children were brainwashed to serve as child soldiers of the so-called Caliphate. The survivors fled to Sinjar mountain, where they were besieged by ISIS forces. Some, especially elders and children, perished due to the extremely hot and dry August weather.

ISIS considers the Yazidis to be “pagans” and not one of the Religions of the Book [Ahl al-Kitab]. That means, based on the radical extremist group’s interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law, that different rules apply to the Yazidis than to Jews, Christians, and Muslims. According to ISIS, pagans should be eradicated.

Yazidis are unable and/or unwilling to return to their homes in Sinjar, which is still contested between the Iraqi government, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and the Turkish/Kurdish group the Kurdistan Workers Party. As these powers vie for control over the area, the Yazidi militias formed after August 2014 have cut their affiliations with each of them. Lack of security and stability, damaged infrastructure, and these conflicted affiliations create significant obstacles for the Yazidis to go back to their homeland and resume their lives.

This dispute over the land has multiple repercussions. Due to the competition over jurisdiction between Baghdad and Erbil, the process of exhuming mass graves in Sinjar has reached a stalemate. The graves are unprotected and exposed to severe weather, jeopardizing not only the process of identifying missing persons but also of preserving evidence of the crimes committed against the Yazidis.

The trauma that the Yazidis community has suffered is ongoing. They feel disappointed and hopeless. They believe they have been neglected by both national and the international powers. Some countries, like Australia, Canada, and Germany, have resettled thousands of the most vulnerable Yazidi women, those who were rescued from ISIS captivity. Still, there remains tremendous work to be done to mitigate the trauma inflicted on the Yazidis. Although Mosul was liberated more than a year ago, only a handful of Yazidi women and children have been released. And there remains the unanswered question:  where are the 3,105 people who were captured by ISIS?

The Yazidis need a substantial reparation program that develops material and moral remedies for this ongoing trauma. They wish for the crimes committed against them to be recognized; but although the Iraqi government and the UN have recognized the genocide, no real action has been taken.

In other words, there have been no tangible steps in terms of accountability or a truth-seeking process in response to the Yazidi massacre. Yes, the KRG established the Commission for Investigation and Gathering Evidence to collect and document evidences about the crimes, and the Higher Judicial Council of Iraq established a special investigative committee. However, while both committees are charged with investigating the same crimes and have a similar mandate, they neither coordinate nor collaborate. This is another affront delaying justice and signaling the continuation of the Yazidis’ calamity.


Hakimi bin Abdul Jabar's picture

The High Costs of Mocking & Ridiculing International Law

In situations where vital global protection of vulnerable populations (e.g. children, refugees) are at stake as a result of conflicts, it falls squarely upon the UN Security Council to ensure that harmful actions as a result of such conflicts do not aggravate and further prolong hostilities. This has become the Golden Rule put into the framework of international law vide the UN Charter.

In contemporary conflicts, as much as 90 percent of casualties are among civilians, most of whom are women and children. Women in war-torn societies can face specific and devastating forms of sexual violence, which are sometimes deployed systematically to achieve military or political objectives. Moreover, women continue to be poorly represented in formal peace processes, although they contribute in many informal ways to conflict resolution.

The systematic engagement of the UN Security Council has firmly placed the situation of children affected by armed conflict as an issue affecting peace and security. The Security Council has created a strong framework and provided the Secretary-General with tools to respond to violations against children.

The tragedies of the Yazidi & other minority victims & survivors of Islamic State's atrocity crimes & of al-Qaida & Taliban's acts of terrorism etc. further embolden the thorough proposition that the UNSC is certainly needed to ensure the exercise of its primary pivotal role in the maintenance of international peace & security and towards the restoration of such in conflict zones.

It is trite law enshrined in any public international law (PIL) textbook worth its salt that "No One Has the Ability to Resurrect the Dead".  No PIL caselaw analysis has ever provided sheer proof and evidence of anyone who, or even anything that, is able to walk on water having the ability to raise the dead.

Being practical & having urgent exigencies, it has now become utterly imperative for the UNSC to exercise its primary function.

When one mocks & ridicules International Law, one runs the risks of unimaginable horrors.  Unless, one becomes the victim or survivor of such atrocity crimes or be in constant attachment of such atrocities as a way of reminder, one will forever be detached and remain oblivious to the pain, suffering & injustice suffered by the Yazidis & other minority victims & survivors of Islamic State's atrocity crimes & of al-Qaida & Taliban's acts of terrorism etc.

Hakimi bin Abdul Jabar's picture

The judicial pronouncement in 2003 by the ICTY Trial Chamber in the case of Momir Nikolic [Case No.: IT-02-60/1-S] asserted that the ICTY is “intended to send the message to all persons that any violations of international humanitarian law — and particularly the practice of “ethnic cleansing” — would not be tolerated and must stop”.

The Tribunal made it very clear that it was to achieve justice through criminal proceedings. The purpose of such proceedings was multi-fold: the primary objective was to convict – and punish – those individually responsible for their crimes. The suffering and loss of the victims of such crimes would thereby be internationally recognised and acknowledged. Furthermore, through criminal proceedings, the Security Council intended to send the message to all persons that any violations of international humanitarian law – and particularly the practice of “ethnic cleansing” – would not be tolerated and must stop (para 59).

The caselaw is self-explanatory.  Justice is to be achieved through criminal proceedings & must convict & punish those individually responsible for the atrocity crimes etc.


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