In the run up to the ninth anniversary of the 2014 Yazidi Genocide perpetrated by ISIS in Sinjar (Shengal) and formally recognised by the United Nations (UN) and several countries, Yazidis gathered in Iraqi capital Baghdad on Tuesday to commemorate the victims, discuss the enduring impact and draw attention to unmet demands.
Led by 27 Yazidi civil society organisations, the meeting primarily focused on the urgent need for the reconstruction of Sinjar, the ancestral homeland of the Yazidi people. The region was left in ruins after the 2014 ISIS siege, which killed thousands of Yazidis and saw thousands of others abducted.
During the event, a recent call was repeated to the Iraqi government to allocate a specialised fund for the reconstruction of Sinjar, amounting to 1 percent of the 2023 budget, which is equivalent to $1.5 billion.
Despite the record-high annual budget of $153 billion, the parliament recently allocated a meagre $38 million for the reconstruction of Sinjar and the Nineveh Plains.
Yazidi representatives emphasise that the disproportionately low funding not only hinders the reconstruction efforts in the region but also highlights a broader pattern of inequality in the budget allocation process, particularly in areas predominantly inhabited by minority communities.
The participants also pointed out that nine years after the genocide, justice for the victims and accountability for the perpetrators were outstanding issues that needed to be addressed on an international level.
One of the key objectives of the gathering was to raise awareness of the unmet demands of the Yazidi community. They reiterated their call for recognition of the atrocities committed against them as a genocide and appealed for the provision of reparations and support for the survivors.
The conference witnessed the involvement of various stakeholders, such as Iraqi officials, UNAMI, UNITAD, and representatives from other UN agencies. In addition, foreign diplomats, Yazidi survivors, religious and community leaders, as well as representatives from international and Iraqi civil society, and leaders spanning across the political spectrum actively participated in the event.
The Yazidi Genocide
The ISIS attacks on Yazidis in Sinjar began on 3 August 2014 and resulted in the seizure of Yazidi territory and the abduction of an estimated 7,000 Yazidi women and girls into sexual slavery. According to UN figures 5,000 Yazidi men were massacred. Others were displaced or faced execution if they refused to convert to Islam.
Many sought refuge in the Sinjar mountains, enduring starvation and dehydration. Eventually, with the assistance of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and multinational rescue operations, around 50,000 Yazidis were able to escape the ISIS siege.
An OHRCR/UNAMI report from September 2014 mentioned that by the end of August, between 1,600 to 1,800 Yazidis had been murdered, executed, or succumbed to starvation.
While ISIS was driven out of the region in 2015, thousands of Yazidis remain missing. In 2016, the UN officially recognised the massacre as genocide, a designation that was later acknowledged by the European Parliament and several European states.