As hate speech and threats against Yazidis in Iraq have risen dangerously in recent days, Nobel laureate Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad on Friday called on the authorities to act before it escalates into physical violence.
This rising wave of hate speech began when Yazidi Kurds in Sinjar protested against the resettlement of Arab families in the area.
On 27 April, the Iraqi government repatriated a large number of Arab families from the infamous Al-Hol camp, which is home to thousands of Islamic State (ISIS) affiliates in northeastern Syria, and resettled them in Sinjar (Şengal). The Yazidi community of Sinjar protested against the return of the families, saying that they had helped ISIS in its massive massacre of Yazidis in 2014, and that some of them were even ISIS fighters themselves.
While Yazidi people were taking to the streets to protest against the return of those who played a role in the massacre which was recognised as genocide by the UN and EU, social media started to spread false messages claiming members of the Yazidi community had set fire to a mosque as well as an image of a destroyed mosque.
Although Yazidis and some Muslim religious figures have said that this is not true, tensions have been exacerbated by the fact that some sect leaders continued to post videos with inflammatory rhetoric and threats against Yazidis.
Later, it was revealed that the image of the ruined mosque that spread and caused the events to escalate had actually been destroyed by ISIS. But that has not stopped many Iraqi Muslims from praising ISIS’ genocide of the Yazidis or threatening to commit the same act themselves.
While the Iraqi government has not taken any action against the sect leaders who spread hate speech against Yazidis, France’s envoy to Iraq condemned the attacks on Wednesday and called on both federal and autonomous authorities to improve security in Sinjar.
“These kinds of discourse targeting the Yazidi people are dangerous and unacceptable,” the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) said in a statement released on Wednesday, condemning the Kurdistan Regional Government for remaining silent in the face of the incident.
According to the US-based Critical Threats Project, ISIS takes advantage of internally displaced people (IDP) flows to hide fighters, and the Iraqi government’s choice to release IDPs rapidly and without any real structural plan means that the government is unable to do its due diligence in ensuring no ISIS fighters are present.
In other words, the Project confirms that the concerns of the Yazidis, who fear that a similar massacre could happen again if Arabs return to the region, are not unfounded.
The ISIS attacks against Yazidis in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq started on 3 August 2014. ISIS overran the Yazidi’s lands, forcing young women into sexual and domestic servitude for ISIS fighters, massacring thousands of people and driving Yazidis from the area.
ISIS was removed from the area on 13 November 2015. In 2016 an independent UN commission of inquiry recognised the massacres as genocide.