Yazidi (Yezidi) civil society organisations, community leaders, and intellectuals have united in a call to the Iraqi government, urging them to “allocate 1% of the 2023 budget – $1.5 billion – to a specialized fund for the reconstruction of Sinjar” (Şengal), the Yazidi homeland in northern Iraq. The demand comes as the anniversary approaches of the 2014 massacres by the Islamic State (ISIS) against the Yazidis, which have been recognised by the United Nations and several countries as genocide.
The recent passage of the Iraqi parliament’s three-year working budget, amounting to $459 billion, with an annual budget of $153 billion – the highest in the nation’s history – has sparked disappointment and anger within the Yazidi community.
The parliament allocated a mere $38 million for the reconstruction of Sinjar and the Nineveh Plains, leaving the Yazidi community feeling disregarded. Yazidi representatives assert that this disproportionately low funding not only affects their region but also reflects a wider inequality in the budget allocation process, especially for areas predominantly inhabited by minority communities.
The devastating attacks on Sinjar in 2014, an area outside the Kurdistan Region and part of Iraq’s disputed territories, resulted in the displacement of thousands of Yazidis and left the region in ruins. Now, the call for a dedicated $1.5 billion fund, under the direct administration of the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office, aims to revitalise Sinjar and assist tens of thousands of Yazidis in rebuilding their homes and properties.
The fund is seen as essential to foster economic development in the region and facilitate the return of displaced Yazidis to their ancestral homes, as the majority of the ancient community remains scattered, living in refugee camps. A significant number of camp residents have expressed their desire to return home, making the fund an imperative step in supporting their aspirations.
The Free Yezidi Foundation highlights that Iraq, being a middle-income country with significant oil and gas resources, has the means to allocate just one percent of its annual budget to the reconstruction of Sinjar.
“The Yezidi Genocide perpetrated by ISIS represents the abject failure of the Iraqi state and the international community to recognize early warning signs of atrocities and prevent genocide and crimes against humanity from occurring,” the foundation said, and noted that while larger communities in Iraq have been able to advocate for their share of funding due to greater representation and political power, the Yazidi community and other minority groups have been left vulnerable due to their lack of political influence.
The ISIS attacks against Yazidis were carried out in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq in 2014, starting on 3 August. ISIS overran the Yazidi lands, forcing young women into sexual and domestic servitude for ISIS fighters, massacring thousands of people and displacing Yazidis in the area. ISIS was removed from the area 13 November 2015. Despite continued efforts to find them, thousands of Yazidis remain missing to date.