The Yazidi people are undergoing a genocide. 85% of the Yazidi population is displaced and over 3,000 women and children remain the captives of ISIS, continually raped and forced to work as slaves.
The international community has produced a definition of genocide, which has been used previously in International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia (i.e., there is a precedent, and the International Criminal Court must recognize the horrors taking place in Iraq and take immediate action):
1) The mental element, meaning the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”, and
2) The physical element which includes five acts described in sections a, b, c, d and e. A crime must include both elements to be called “genocide.”
Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
Article III: The following acts shall be punishable:
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.
Yazidis have been treated as lesser citizens in Iraq, adding to their difficulties in obtaining legal assistance. Historically, there have been misunderstandings regarding the Yazidi religion, which celebrates God and seven angels. One of these angels has a name which falls close to the devil in Islam. Thus the ethno-religious minority group, the Yazidi, have been massacred dozens of times over the past millennium. Yet today they are being captured and slaughtered by a known and recognized terrorist group, one opposed globally, while the international community makes no strides to assist them.
Multiple United Nations reports have classified ISIS’ attacks on the Yazidi people as genocide, and recognize it as an ongoing problem.
We have seen such ethnic “cleansings” before. The Jewish people, historically persecuted time and again, were killed by the millions in the Holocaust before the international community began to provide assistance. Between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsi were killed in Rwanda in a matter of months. The Yazidi population is already low: estimated at a mere 700,000.
The Yazidi men are being slaughtered, the women and children captured and enslaved. The women and girls are subject to rape (including girls as young as 6, and if the rape is followed by pregnancy, forcible abortions as well), torture, and forced religious conversion. The captured boys were also forcibly converted and indoctrinated with the extremist views of ISIS to serve as soldiers. ISIS is killing both the people and the Yazidi culture.
Seniors members of Yazda and human rights advocates have been pleading the case of the Yazidi people, but thus far to little avail. Most recently, Nadia Murad, herself a survivor of ISIS enslavement, participated in an event in Australia to address the crimes ISIS has committed against minorities in Syria and Iraq and attempts to have the ISIS survivors relocated to Australia.
Increased international attention, both on the slaughter of the Yazidi and the plight of the remaining survivors (current slaves, escaped slaves, and relocated refugees), is a step towards holding ISIS accountable for their heinous and inhumane actions. While last year the UN was dragging its feet on recognizing this crisis as a genocide, based on the definitions accepted in the past courts and ongoing situation, it is clear what is happening in Iraq.
Yet it is clear that the ongoing crisis in Iraq and Syria involving the systemic decimation of the Yazidi people falls under the jurisdiction of the ICC and that ISIS is in the process of committing genocide against them.
ISIS has stated outright that they aim to eliminate the Yazidi population. Those who are captured are forced to convert, those who will not convert are killed. By destroying the homes and communities as well, surviving Yazidi can never return to their homes.
Without help from the international community, the Yazidi people may never recover. Not only do they need aid in defense from ISIS attacks, but also resources. The majority of these people have been relocated to refugee camps (and in many of these are still targets of violence) without adequate supplies. The women and children who have escaped the slavery of ISIS need counseling and support to begin to come to terms with the awful events that have befallen them.
For those who have already been killed in ISIS attacks, Yazda is attempting to document the bodies remaining in mass graves to provide closure to families. Those who still live in Iraq and in unsafe refugee camps need resettlement options, but the ICC is refusing to hear these cases for a minimum of six years. Six more years living under the constant threat of extermination in Iraq and Kurdistan, or without adequate food and shelter in a refugee camp. This is unacceptable.
Yazda further seeks assistance once the Yazidi people have been liberated from Iraq. Not only do the victims of ISIS deserve justice, but there need be new international measures that prevent such genocide from once again befalling the Yazidi.
For over a year, Yazda has been struggling to force recognition of the genocide beyond merest lip service to action. It is the most basic, humanitarian responsibility of the international community to provide assistance. The Yazidi people are dying. They need help.