Executive Council member of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), Sabri Ok, spoke to Stêrk TV on the 7th anniversary of the Yazidi genocide by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in which thousands of civilians were killed, thousands of women and children were enslaved and more than half a million people became refugees.
Ok, commemorating the people who lost their lives, underlined that the Yazidi people have resisted, despite all the oppression that they have faced throughout history. “Thousands of women, children, old people, young people were murdered, martyred, kidnapped. There are still thousands, hundreds of missing, abducted people. Yazidi people have faced many farmans [decrees with genocidal consequences] but still survived. They never gave up their culture, identity and their spirit of resistance: thus, they have survived.”
When Sinjar was taken over by ISIS in 2014, the first armed unit to arrive in the region was composed of 12 fighters constituting a People’s Defence Forces (HPG) unit. Later, more HPG fighters and also People’s Defence Units (YPG) fighters from Rojava arrived in the area and opened a humanitarian corridor for the civilians and also fought against ISIS.
Ok pointed to the significance of those fighters: “It is known in Sinjar that if the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Kurdistan guerrillas did not arrive, Sinjar would not be Sinjar today. The situation would be very different,” he stated and added that this should not be forgotten.
In October 2020, an agreement between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government was reached regarding the future of Sinjar without the will of the local people being consulted and the people of Sinjar have been continously protesting against the agreement ever since.
KCK Executive Ok emphasized that the agreement that was reached, without asking the opinions of the people of Sinjar, is unacceptable. “Some people decide without asking the opinions of the Yazidi people. This is not just, this is not right. If they did not work for the lives and the defence of the Yazidi people, they cannot say anything about the future of the Yazidi people.”
Ok underlined that the Yazidi people should have an autonomous status. “Without a doubt, Yazidi people have a history: they have their own lands and identity. They are a society. They have the right to be autonomous under international law and, if I’m not mistaken, according Iraqi law as well,” he said. “They believe in themselves. Let them govern and defend themselves. It is their right.”
Ok concluded by noting that some European countries have recognised the Yazidi genocide. He said it was important, but not sufficient and the rights of the Yazidi people should be respected as well. “The genocide was accepted by some European states. This is important. But what will be the political consequence of this? If it is recognised as a genocide, the European Union and the United Nations should respect Yazidi people’s rights.”