On the eighth anniversary of the beginning of the Yazidi genocide, that began 3 August 2014, the Free Yezidi Foundation based in Duhuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, organised a series of four online meetings looking at ongoing work to achieve justice for the victims of the Yazidi genocide, rights for the genocide survivors, addressing the Yazidi’s current situation in Sinjar, and the geo-political situation that exists in the Sinjar region including the issues in relation to the Sinjar Agreement and the Turkish drone attacks on Yazidi survivors.
This insightful and informative event was called the ‘Eight Year Commemoration of the Yezidi Genocide’.
In the first panel, entitled ‘Yezidi Genocide: The European Perspective’, parliamentarians from different countries talked about the work they are doing to achieve justice for the Yazidi victims of genocide.
It was emphasised in the discussion that although there are cases in which ISIS individuals had been charged, mostly in Germany, it is difficult to achieve a definitive case against ISIS because they are not a state. Despite having the word ‘state’ in their name, they do not have the constituent elements or recognition to be considered a state by international law.
However, Baroness Helena Kennedy from the UK interestingly pointed out that a strategic way to proceed could be to hold those states to account who were complicit with the genocide.
She said that under international law states are obliged to prevent genocide, so countries in the region such as Turkey, Iraq and Syria could be taken to the International Criminal Court for complicity in the ISIS genocide. She suggested that a state should be found to initiate and pursue this task.
There are however cases of individual ISIS fighters that have been charged and convicted of crimes, such as genocide and war crimes, mostly in Germany where the prosecution teams have been successful in pursuing charges against individual ISIS members. This was looked into in a little more detail in the second panel entitled ‘Justice & Accountability’ and included war crimes prosecutor Anna Zabeck who spoke about 6 successful cases taken out so far in Germany.
There were also speakers from war crimes prosecutors office in Sweden and the UN who both detailed ongoing preparatory work of gathering evidence against ISIS individuals. All speakers agreed that the journey for seeking justice for Yazidi victims was very much only just beginning and that there are a lot of cases in the pipeline yet to come to court. There was also a lot of legal explanations of various networks and legal frameworks involved in the investigations and details of the evidence gathering work of lawyers and investigators involved in bringing cases against ISIS individuals.
A speaker from the US also spoke about the slave trade aspect of ISIS crimes against the Yazidis.
Other panels, such as the ‘Yezidi Survivors Rights’ panel, discussed the implementation on the ground in Iraq of the Yezidi Survivors Law. On 1 March 2021, the Iraqi parliament passed the Yazidi Survivors Law which provides a reparations framework for many survivors of ISIS crimes, including women and girls who were subjected to sexual violence, as well as child survivors who were abducted before the age of 18. The law was welcomed but it was explained that it has not yet been implemented on the ground.
The issue of the identification, retrieval and reburial of loved ones who died in the genocide was also noted as a central demand of the survivors in order to be able to begin the healing process.
Jennifer Gavito the US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq contributed to the last panel of the day entitled ‘Sinjar in Crisis’, saying that there were many issues facing normalisation for the Yazidis in Sinjar and that one way to bring about more stability would be the full implementation of the Sinjar Agreement between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraq, for all armed groups to withdraw from Sinjar, and for a local Mayor to be appointed to receive funds and manage projects for recovery.
She also said that the more the Yazidis are united, the more likely their voice will be heard in Baghdad. She then posed some controversial questions for the Yazidi community to answer and asked how the PKK can be ‘expelled’ from Sinjar, and how can job opportunities be created for the Yazidi Resistance Units (YBS).
Mr Murad Ismael Former Executive Director of Yazda Organization and Yazidi Activist was very pessimistic about the future of Iraq and strongly criticised the Sinjar Agreement, saying that it did not take into account the wishes of the people of Sinjar.
Douglas Hoyt, the US deputy special envoy for the coalition for the defeat of ISIS spoke about the US actions and policies in Syria, and in relation to the Yazidis. He urged all countries to take back the foreign terrorist fighters (FTF) of ISIS/Deash and to prosecute them, and to also take back the ISIS supporters and families of ISIS fighters who are in the al Hol Camp, a camp that holds up to 60,000 people. Nadine Maenza also pointed out that over 220,000 Yazidi refugees still remain in refugee camps in Iraq and Syria.
Many of the speakers, especially Nadine Maenza, condemned the drone strikes of the Turkish state against civilians in Sinjar, and elsewhere in Syria and Iraq, and repeatedly called on the US and International community to do more to condemn Turkish drone attacks in Sinjar and to cease Turkey’s violence.
“While Turkey insist they are targeting the PKK we only see Iraqi citizens being killed. In June we saw a 12 year old boy killed while at his father’s shop with his brother. Turkey is also destroying infrastructure with no plans for reconstruction. This is unacceptable and only furthers the trauma felt by the Yazidi community.” Maenza went on to challenge the hypocrisy and general miss-messaging that surrounds Turkey’s attacks on Sinjar.
The United States is not supportive of Turkey’s actions in Syria or Iraq, said Douglas Hoyt the US deputy special envoy for the coalition to defeat ISIS. ‘Let’s just leave it there,” he poignantly said, clearly being diplomatic and not wanting to talk about it further.
Pari Ibrahim of the Free Yezidi Foundation concluded the day with an emotional appeal for help to find the over 2,700 missing Yazidis, voicing her desperation and hurt over the fragile situation of the Yazidis, and expressing her worries for the future.
The whole event was very informative and gave an in depth and up-to-date overview of the Yazidi’s situation, in terms of seeking justice for the genocide, and for the ongoing geo-political situation surrounding the Sinjar Agreement between the Iraqi authorities and Kurdistan Regional Government, whom both also have their own political crisis.
The conclusion the viewer would draw is that advances have been made in regards recognition of the Yazidi Genocide and efforts to secure justice for the survivors of the genocide but that the next few years for the Yazidis is very precarious, fragile and dangerous, and that nothing can be guaranteed, especially the security of the Yazidis in the region where they face the very real prospect of another genocidal attack.
The whole video can be watched here.