UN report: ‘Islamic State’ is committing genocide against Iraq’s Yazidis



The plight of the Yazidi people, a religious sect that IS consider to be devil worshippers has been going on for over two years; the media have published stories about US airstrikes against the IS forces attacking the Yazidis in northern Iraq but on the ground, there is precious little evidence that anything has been done to help the Yazidis. In fact, the most help they seem to have received was from the Kurds who, by battling IS, allowed the Yazidis to escape Sinjar mountain. The plight of the Tazidi people is a very real genocide and it is disgusting that, a century on from the Armenian genocide, we seem to have learnt nothing about protecting innocent minorities from murderous regimes.


UN report: ‘Islamic State’ is committing genocide against Iraq’s Yazidis

The so-called “Islamic State” is committing genocide against the ancient indigenous Yazidi ethno-religious minority in Iraq and Syria, UN investigators said on Thursday.

The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking syncretic religious group living mostly in pockets of Nineveh province and Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, whose roots in the region date back thousands of years to ancient Mesopotamian cultures.

“Genocide has occurred and is ongoing,” UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria chairman Paulo Pinheiro said in Geneva after unveiling a report.

IS fighters swept through Iraq’s Nineveh province in 2014, forcing tens of thousands of Yazidis around their homeland of Sinjar to flee to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. IS killed several thousand Yazidis and forced women into widely documented slavery and sexual exploitation.

The UN last year said IS may have sought to commit genocide, but Thursday’s report was more definitive. It said the extremist group “sought to erase the Yazidis through killings, sexual slavery, enslavement, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.”

“Girls as young as nine were raped, as were pregnant women,” said the report. “Most of those interviewed reported violent daily rapes by their fighter-owners.”

The report said 3,200 Yazidi women and children are still being held by IS, mainly in Syria.

The UN investigators urged the international community to do more to end the genocide and bring those responsible to justice.

Commission member Carla del Ponte, a former prosecutor for international tribunals in Rwanda and the ex-Yugoslavia, said she would be able to “prepare an indictment” for genocide against IS commanders based on the information from the report.

“ISIS has subjected every Yazidi woman, child or man that it has captured to the most horrific of atrocities,” Pinheiro said, referring to another acronym for IS.

The Yazidis’ plight triggered a US military intervention against IS in the summer of 2014 after Iraqi Kurdish fighters collapsed in Sinjar, leaving thousands of the minority group facing imminent death.

They were saved by a combination of US airstrikes and the intervention of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a guerilla group fighting for greater rights and autonomy for Kurds in Turkey.

The collapse of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces was a major embarrassment for Iraqi Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, the main rival of the PKK in the Kurdish nationalist movement.

The fact that Barzani’s forces abandoned the Yezidis created major divisions within the community, essentially along the lines of those that support the PKK and those that maintained their support for Barzani.

The PKK responded to the collapse of Sinjar by maintaining forces in the area and setting up Yezidi self-defense groups, thereby bolstering their presence around Mount Sinjar.

This move further increased tensions between the PKK and Barzani, who also established Yazidi units tied to his Kurdistan Democratic Party.

Despite underlying tensions, a combined Iraqi peshmerga, Yazidi militia, PKK and Syrian Kurdish offensive backed by US airstrikes retook Sinjar in December 2015.

However, competition between the various Kurdish factions complicates the future situation of the Yazidis and their homeland. In the backdrop is the war waging in neighboring Syria, where US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces tied to the PKK have carved out large swaths of territory and begun an experiment in autonomy.

Yazidis tied to the PKK are pushing for Sinjar to become an autonomous province, while Barzani would like to incorporate Sinjar into the Kurdistan Region and wants the PKK to leave. Meanwhile, as time passes and the prospect of returning home looks bleaker, many Yazidis have opted to flee Iraq altogether and seek a better life in Europe.

Author Details
Ian Greenhalgh is a photographer and historian with a particular interest in military history and the real causes of conflicts.

His studies in history and background in the media industry have given him a keen insight into the use of mass media as a creator of conflict in the modern world.

His favored areas of study include state-sponsored terrorism, media manufactured reality and the role of intelligence services in manipulation of populations and the perception of events.
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