The Turkish state and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) were complicit in the 2014 Yazidi Genocide, participants of a European Parliament conference heard from a survivor on Tuesday.
Delegates at the ‘Shengal – a society threatened by genocide – reconstruction as a guarantee for peace in the Middle East’ conference, which convened in Brussels, heard the testimony of surviving eyewitness Suad Murad Khalaf, as she shed light on the alleged complicity of the Turkish state and the KDP in the genocidal assault on the Yazidi community in their homeland of Sinjar (Şengal), northern Iraq.
Khalaf shared a harrowing account of how the KDP forces withdrew as the genocide attacks began, raising suspicions of premeditation. She asserted that ISIS militants launched their offensive on Sinjar with the support of both the Turkish state and the KDP.
The attack seemed orchestrated, the witness said, with weapons confiscated from Yazidis prior to the onslaught, leaving them defenceless. The outcome was devastating, with thousands losing their lives and countless others abducted, children and elderly included.
Khalaf saw firsthand the horrific treatment of Yazidi women, recounting the heart-wrenching sight of them being sold in chains at markets. The survivor said she would have been sold had she not been rescued by Kurdish guerrilla forces, namely the People’s Defence Forces (HPG) and Women’s Defence Units (YPJ), who intervened and took her to safety.
After escaping the clutches of ISIS Khalaf joined the women-led defence forces, who safeguard Sinjar to this day, she emphasised. While acknowledging that formal recognition of genocide was a crucial step, Khalaf warned of a persistent genocidal threat. She called for preventative measures against further violence, drawing attention to ongoing attacks in Turkish-controlled areas.
As the panel turned to post-genocide obligations, Rojda Arslan, an expert in international criminal law and human rights, highlighted two crucial responsibilities of European countries: prosecuting the perpetrators of genocide and taking proactive measures to prevent its recurrence.
Arslan noted that Germany had gone some way towards trying ISIS members, from 80 different countries, for genocide charges. However, she highlighted the challenges faced by courts due to the lack of coordination among governments for examining crimes, collecting evidence, and delivering convictions.
Thousands of displaced Yazidis living in camps remain vulnerable, while many abductees are still missing. Arslan described this ongoing threat as a continuation of the ‘ferman’, a term denoting historic massacre and extermination operations against Yazidis. The legal expert called on European states to take further action to protect the Yazidi community.
Marion Böker, President of the International Alliance of Women, called for a feminist approach to address the situation. She emphasised the misogynistic nature of groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and their connections to other states. Böker asserted that states supporting and arming these groups should also be held accountable.
In the context of the on-going reconstruction of Sinjar, Böker called on the European Union and its member countries to fulfil their obligations, similar to actions taken in other regions. She urged compensation for genocide survivors and the closure of airspace to Turkish warplanes over both northern Iraq and North and East Syria. Böker emphasised that international action must be informed by the Yazidis themselves, in order that rebuilding efforts are in line with the Yazidi’s right to self-determination.
The final session of the conference explored prospects for further reconstruction and recognition of Sinjar’s self-government, concluding with a final declaration.