For a period after 3 August 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) rampaged through Sinjar, the Yazidi heartland in Iraqi Kurdistan. Whilst more than half a million Yazidis were displaced, ISIS often forced and sold Yazidi women into sex slavery.
In 2016, a United Nations (UN) Commission declared that the ISIS assault on the Yazidis inside Syria constituted genocide. This year, a UN team investigating ISIS atrocities stated that ISIS also committed genocide against the Yazidi people in Iraq.
“There is clear and convincing evidence that the crimes against the Yazidi people clearly constituted genocide,” said Karim Khan, Special Adviser and head of the investigating team.
Hediye Semo, co-chair of the Democratic Union Party’s (PYD’s) Tirbespiye (also known as Al-Qahtaniyah) office, located in Qamishli canton under the administration of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), shared her views with Jin News on the occasion of the anniversary of the genocide of the Yazidis in Sinjar.
“I bow with respect in front of all those who sacrificed their lives to liberate Sinjar. It has been seven years since the farman, but the traces of the farman, the pain, the destruction in Sinjar still continues,” she noted. In terms of collective memory, the first genocidal massacre the Yazidis faced is referred to as ‘the first farman.’ The last farman began on 3 August 2014, when ISIS besieged Sinjar, home to the Yazidi minority of Iraq. Yazidis list this period of massacres and genocidal horrors as the 74th Farman.
Semo especially drew attention to the crimes committed against women in Sinjar. “Six thousand Yazidi women were kidnapped by ISIS. The whereabouts of hundreds of women still remain unknown. Have they been killed? Have they been sold? Unfortunately, we have no information about their situation.”
“It was Rojava which opened its doors to the people of Sinjar,” Semo added. “It was Rojava that embraced the people of Sinjar. They opened their doors and thousands of Sinjari people passed through to Rojava. Back then, there was also a revolution, there was also an attack from all corners, but they did not abandon the people of Sinjar, despite all those harsh circumstances.”
Semo also stated that the people in Sinjar have been healing their wounds over the past seven years with their self-will and organising power. “The people of Sinjar formed their organisations, preserved their existence and their identity with great purpose and strength. They formed their military units. They learned how to defend themselves against a new farman.”
She added: “The Autonomous Administration of Sinjar was established and this was a great success. Then, again, the Yazidi Women’s Movement declared its foundation to be in response to the farman. Sinjar people are now much more organised.”
Semo shared her views regarding the discussions over governance issues and related concerns in Sinjar. “Countries of the world have seen how Sinjar stood up and attained its self-power: they accept the status of Sinjar now and they want it to be governed by the Iraqi government, but we have not forgotten how the Iraqi government left the people of Sinjar on their own.”
Recalling the attitude of the regional powers at the time, Semo criticised the Iraqi authorities. “The Iraqi peshmerga and soldiers said they they would defend Sinjar, but they left Sinjar and ran away. They left thousands in Sinjar to their deaths.”
“All people should know that the people of Sinjar are not the old people of Sinjar. Sinjar people own their destiny and will now. They are organised and they are a people with a military force. The people of Sinjar will never remain without self-defence in the face of such an attack, not again. The return of those who were displaced from their lands to Sinjar continues. The people of Sinjar protect their lands now.”