Category Page: Yazidi Update

Press Release: Arrest Warrant against ISIS militant in Germany recognises crimes committed against Yazidis as genocide

In December 2016, the Supreme Court of Germany authorised the issuance of an arrest warrant against an ISIS commander who is allegedly responsible for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated against the Yazidi minority in Syria and Iraq. The ISIS commander – whose name will not be disclosed for the time being – was identified for prosecution by the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office. He is said to be high-ranking and responsible for the abduction and sexual enslavement of Yazidi women. [wysija_form id=”2″]

In August 2014, ISIS attacked the Sinjar region in Northern Iraq, homeland to the Yazidis, a peaceful minority targeted by ISIS because of their ancient religion. Thousands of men and older women were executed on the spot, while girls were captured to become “sex slaves” and young boys kidnapped and trained to be child soldiers. Over 360,000 Yazidis were displaced in a matter of days.

Over two and a half years later, more than 3,000 Yazidis remain in ISIS captivity. The United Nations has recognised that the crimes committed by ISIS against the Yazidis amount to genocide. But to date, no member of ISIS has been indicted or tried anywhere in the world for these atrocities.


This arrest warrant is an opportunity to change that. Amal Clooney, counsel to Yazda, Nadia Murad and other Yazidi ISIS survivors, congratulates the German Federal Prosecutor Christian Ritscher and his team for this achievement. It is hoped that the perpetrator can now be arrested and brought to trial. And that prosecutors in other countries show a similar commitment to holding members of ISIS accountable through their courts, where there is jurisdiction to do so.


Press Release: French Parliament urges the French Government to recognize the Yazidi genocide and to seize the International Criminal Court through the United Nations Security Council.

The French Parliament adopted this morning a resolution urging the French Government to:

  • Recognize the genocide perpetrated by Daesh against Yazidi, Christians and other minorities in Irak and Syria
  • Refer this situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC) through the United Nations Security Council (UNSC)

During the parliamentary discussion, most of the Members of Parliament have made reference to the UN report They Came to Destroy: ISIS Crimes against the Yazidis which urged the International Community to recognize the “ongoing genocide against Yazidis” and to fight impunity for perpetrators.

Yazda welcomes the adoption of this resolution and takes this opportunity to reiterate its main recommendations for the French Government:

  • Formally recognize the Yazidi genocide separate from collective recognition of Genocide.
  • Support establishing a safe zone for Yazidis and other minorities under international protection.
  • Relocate in France Yazidi vulnerable victims of continuing genocidal attacks, especially Yazidi women and girls who managed to escape captivity.
  • Provide financial and technical support for forensic expertise of the 42 mass graves already identified by Yazda in Sinjar. Support financially rebuild of liberated Yazidi Areas.


In February 2016, CAP international facilitated the advocacy tour of Nadia Murad Basee Taha and Yazda to Paris. On this occasion, Yazda and Nadia Murad met with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, the Presidential office (Elysée). They also met with Ministers Laurence Rossignol and Najat Vallaud Belkacem, the President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, and two delegations of Senators and member of the Assemblée nationale.


The Yazidis are a People and an ethno-religious group based mainly in northern Iraq, Kurdistan, Germany, Russia, Armenia, and Georgia. Yazidis have a 6,000-year-old distinctive culture. ISIS launched a genocidal attack on the Yazidi People in August 2014, justified by falsely declaring Yazidis to be ‘devil worshippers’.

In the ISIS campaign of genocide captured Yazidi men and male teenagers were immediately murdered, younger boys sent for indoctrination as future ISIS fighters, young women and girls kidnapped as sex slaves while the middle aged and older women were subsequently murdered.

In summary approximately 5000 Yazidis were massacred, 7000 abducted and 90% of the Yazidi community displaced to refugee camps, mostly in Kurdistan, Iraq. Some 3,400 women and children remain in ISIS captivity either as sex slaves or undergoing brainwashing as future ISIS fighters. An estimated 2,576 Yazidi women and children have escaped or been rescued from ISIS captivity, of whom 1,100 have been brought to Germany for counselling and therapy. Some 42 Yazidi religious sites have been destroyed, numerous graveyards desecrated and Yazidi property plundered.

Press Release in English

Press Release in Arabic

U.S. Consul General Visits Yazda

Yazda was honored today by a visit from the U.S. Consul General in Erbil, Matthias Mitman, who traveled to Dohuk and had a meeting in the Yazda office.

The Consul General was accompanied by Nakashia Dunner, a Political Officer in the U.S. Consulate, and met with Yazda Iraq Executive Director Matthew Barber, Manager of Operations Jameel Chomer, and researcher and documentation specialist Andrew Slater.

The Consul General inquired about the status of our work and about the needs of the Yazidi people we serve: the IDPs in the camps, the returnees in Shingal, and the refugee population outside of Iraq. We discussed some of the important issues facing the Yazidi community today.

We are grateful for the involvement of the Consul General and we will continue to work with all officials who share our concern for the well-being of the Yazidi people and who want to help guarantee their future in their homeland.


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Endangered Religious Minorities in the Middle East and Their Struggle for Survival Fordham University

On May 10, 2016 Haider Elias Yazda President, participated in a conference hosted by Fordham University Center on Religion and Culture. The purpose of the conference was to make awareness about the struggles of religious minorities in the Middle East.
Haider Elias made a brief introduction to the Yazidi religious minority that has nourished in the region for millennia and rooted in the beliefs of ancient Mesopotamia, and how it is now on the verge of extinction.
He also outlined some of Yazda goals in few years from now, such as: the liberation of the entire Sinjar area and provide security with the participation of all security forces including the Coalition forces.
To form a joint command force out of all the local forces that also includes international forces.
To form a local administration from among the Yazidi people that is acceptable to everyone.
To support the Yazidis in their ancestral homelands in Northern Iraq, through the liberation of their areas, through the provision of security and international protection, and through the formation of local governance drawn from the Yazidi people, under the supervision of UN.
To find a safe path for those Yazidis who choose to leave the Middle East; considering that the Yazidis are a minority that has been repeatedly targeted with annihilation for their religious identity.
To work on creating more humanitarian projects for the internally displaced and refugees from the Yazidi community To work on building strong relations with international institutions and to create a Yazidi lobby that is able to legitimately serve as a Yazidi voice, in order to achieve the will of the Yazidis in building their future.


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(photos by Fordham University/ Leo Sorel)


Nadia: A 20 year old young woman, once enslaved by ISIS, speaks at UN Geneva

NRT writes on Yazda work in Dohuk

NRT DUHOK – A non-profit organization has recently set up a center in the northern Kurdish city of Duhok to help Yazidi women and girls, who have survived sex enslavement at the hands of the Islamic State (IS) militants, lead a normal life again.

Yazda, the U.S.-based non-profit organization, was established in the aftermath of the IS capture of Sinjar in August 2014, hometown to the Yazidi community in northern Iraq. The aim of the organization is to help the Yazidis a minority sect in northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.

According to Executive Director in Iraq Matthew Barber, the group has so far helped over 800 Yazidi women and girls, offering them the psychological support they need to overcome ordeals of rape, torture and enslavement.

Besides trauma and medical support, the group is also providing humanitarian aid including food and clothing for displaced Yazidis living in a refugee camp on the outskirts of the city.

“Yazda has done a number of projects to support people in different way, men and women both. One form of this is through aid, giving clothing, giving food, giving different types of support to camps and locations where people that are displaced are living,” said Barber, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State which is also known as IS or ISIS.

“Yazda has received over eight hundred women and girls that have escaped from Daesh. They’ve come to Yazda, talked about their story, given their information. Yazda does a detailed intake interview with them to understand what their experience was and what their needs are now, what the situation is now,” Barber added.

IS has hounded ethnic and religious minorities in northern Iraq since seizing the city of Mosul in June last 2014, killing and displacing thousands of Christians, Shabaks and Turkmen who lived for centuries in one of the most diverse parts of the Middle East.

Hundreds of Yazidi women and girls have been captured, raped and tortured, and forced to convert to Islam and marry IS followers, according to rights groups.

Barber said that one of his group’s goal is to counter IS’ attempts to eliminate the Yazidis’ tradition and finish their religion and his group’s goal is to make sure that this religion and traditions continue to exist and be respected.

For this end and as part of its rehabilitation program, the group organizes trips for Yazidi women to Lalesh Temple for spiritual and psychological comfort. The temple is considered to be the most sacred place for the minority sect.

IS militants consider the Yazidis “devil worshippers” because of their faith, and believe Islamic law entitles IS fighters to rape, abuse and forcibly convert members of the minority sect.

Together with its humanitarian projects, Yazda also aims to document crimes committed by IS militants against the Yazidi sect including rape of hundreds of Yazidi women and killing of thousands of Yazidi men.

“Yazda is involved, hopefully soon, in starting educational projects for women who have escaped from Daesh, from IS. Yazda is also doing documentation work to record the history of what has happened in this place, so Yazda is doing a quite number of different projects all of which are to support the Yazidi community,” said Barber.

Yazidi women said the group’s activities have helped greatly in healing their psychological wounds.

Among them is 22-year old Sara Ahmed Mahmoud, a mother of two children who escaped the IS after 11 months in captivity and who is still haunted by painful memories of the abuse she experienced while in captivity.

“When I arrived here I was suffering from psychological problems and was advised by a number of my friends who have managed to escape Daesh captivity and who were enrolled in the group’s activities to come and participate,” she said.

“My friends told me that they have started to feel much when they attended activities organized by the organization, therefore, I decided to come. This organization helps all the women who have escaped Daesh, especially women like me who have no relatives and who have lost their husband and who have no money or salary, through registering our names and giving us a monthly payment,” she continued.

Mahmoud did not wish to talk about her experiences in captivity.

Others urge the group to work to help free their fellow Yazidis who are still in captivity.

“We call on the group to organize more courses to help fill our time and distract our attention from indulging in our past experience. We also want them to help our fellow Yazidi people who are still at the hands of Daesh. This is our main call and we hope that the world will hear our appeal,” said 24-year-old Diyana Jerdo Ibrahim whose 44 male relatives are still held by the IS militants.

“I saw the benefits that my friends got after attending courses organized by the group. They’ve become much better as these courses help keep them preoccupied and all the women are in need of such courses because our scars have not been healed yet,” she added.