ext month, the genocide against the Yezidis started seven years ago. ISIS attacked and killed thousands of men, abducted thousands of other children and women who were enslaved and the boys indoctrinated to be ‘cubs of the caliphate’.
This week, the Netherlands recognised this as a genocide, after Belgium did that last nonth and as the US, UK, France, Scotland, Iraq, Portugal, Australia, Canada, Armenia, UN, European Council and the European Parliament have before.
But while this recognition should be a start of justice for the Yezidis and full assistance into building their future again, it looks like it is the first and last step the Netherlands will take.
It is interesting to see that the proposal to recognize the Yezidi genocide was accepted unanimously from the fascists to the anti-fascist and everything in between. I say fascists in plural because there are several fascist parties in the Netherlands parliament, with in total 28 seats, and anti-fascist in the singular as the anti-fascist party has only one seat, in a total number of 150 parliamentary seats. A few parties have newly entered parliament after the elections in March, including the anti-fascist one, but the majority of them, including the christian-democrat CDA that initiated the proposal, have a track record on the issue of the genocide. And it doesn’t look good.
It’s good to firstly point out that the recognition of the genocide has no legal consequences. It doesn’t legally oblige the Netherlands to take any action nor refrain from any action that is connected to the genocide. It can be considered as a moral boost for the Yezidi community, but in practice, it doesn’t do any more than that.
So let’s check if the Dutch parliament is committed to anything else that would help the Yezidis heal from what happened, like bringing the perpetrators to trial and enable the community to build a safer future. I mean, it’s been seven years since the genocide started and it was even televised, by the genocidal group that is responsible for it, so if they really sincerely cared, they could have done all kinds of things, right?
Well, the Netherlands has said it supports the founding of an international tribunal. With such a legal entity, the perpetrators can be prosecuted in either Iraq, where the genocide took place, or Syria, where ISIS also committed numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Netherlands did nothing but pay lip service to this idea. They could also have pleaded for international recognition of the Autonomous Administration of Northeast-Syria, where many ISIS-members who committed the genocide are being held and where the authorities are committed to justice but need international support, but no such thing ever happened. Fascist parties even plea for the return of Syrian refugees to Syria, some in explicit combination with support for Assad, which speaks volumes about their commitment to human rights.
If this lack of action could be judged in the context of efforts to prosecute those responsible for genocide who own a Dutch passport in the Netherlands, that would at least show some commitment to justice. But there is still no will whatsoever to repatriate the Dutch women who were complicit. Recently, one Dutch woman and her children were repatriated from Northeast-Syria, but only because the Dutch judge in the court case against her summoned the state to do so, or the prosecution would stop: defendants have the right to attend their own trial.
Via this route, other Dutch female ISIS-members are expected to be brought to the Netherlands as well. The government is shifting towards supporting this now because the legal system orders it, but basically the whole parliament is against it, especially fascist and right wing parties.
The Yezidi community doesn’t get any help either. The Netherlands has, for example, not followed in German footsteps to welcome survivors of the genocide and help them with programs to recover from their trauma and build a future.
Yezidis can’t build a future at home either, and the Netherlands has done nothing much to change that. To my knowledge, it hasn’t even debated the situation in the Shengal region after the genocide. I bet most Dutch parliamentarians don’t even have the faintest idea of the ongoing destruction, the countless mines, the power play with countless different groups that all want something to say about the geographically strategic region in the northwest of Iraq and that (almost) all disregard the right of Yezidis to self-determination. They may be aware that tens of thousands of Yezidis are still trapped in refugee camps (and maybe that thousands of others are left in mass graves that urgently need to be excavated), but well, Europe, the Netherlands included, is fine with refugees being trapped in hopeless camps for years on end, as long as they don’t cross into Europe.
Cynical? No, this is the reality. Recognition of genocide should be a first step towards structural help in judicial justice, healing, and a future in which genocide can not happen again. Instead, based on the seven years behind us, the Dutch recognition seems to be both a first and a last step in this case. A bandage against the bleeding, a symbolic but empty gesture that very likely won’t be backed up with action. The risk is not only traumatizing Yezidis further, but without a safer future, even the risk of a new genocide is real.
I sincerely hope I will be proven wrong.