The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) depopulated Yazidi villages in Sinjar, Iraqi Kurdistan, after it managed to enter Iraq in 2014. Whilst the men and boys were executed and tortured, thousands of women were kidnapped to serve as slaves to be sexually and physically abused.
As this minority community was subjected to a massive destruction campaign that amounted to genocide, Yazidi women have perhaps been the most persecuted of all of those who have suffered during Syria’s civil war.
Since then, the women of Sinjar have created their own self-defence units with the support of the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), which – alongside the People’s Defence Units (YPG) – had fought back against ISIS and rescued the Yazidi community who were trapped on Mount Sinjar in 2014.
Known as the Yazidi Women’s Units (YJS), today Yazidi female fighters play a major role in defending themselves and Sinjar. “The purpose of the 3 August genocidal attacks was to destroy the Yazidi people, the Yazidi religion, the Yazidi culture, the Yazidi language and Yazidi morals. It was the women who were targeted the most,” the YJS said in a written statement on Tuesday.
The YJS stated that Yazidi women experienced targeting in its most violent form and highlighted what the consequences would be if women were not able to defend themselves. “Taking this experience as the principle basis upon which we act, with the organisation of the YJS, the self-defence of women has been achieved. Today, we are ready to stand up and respond to attacks.”
The YJS declared that they will further develop their resistance capacities alongside the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) to enable the autonomous status of Sinjar to be recognised.
“As long as Sinjar’s status is not officially recognised, the threat over Sinjar will continue. The biggest response to the attacks of denial and annihilation is that our Yazidi people strengthen their political and military organisation and the form of their autonomous administration.”