Yazda Launches The Yazidi Survivors Network (YSN) To Advocate For The Rights of Survivors and Vulnerable Communities in Iraq and Syria
Yazda welcomes the launch of the Yazidi Survivors Network (“YSN”) to support survivors of genocide and sexual enslavement committed by the so-called Islamic State (IS also known as “Daesh”). The YSN will empower survivors to speak out about their experiences, express their needs, fight for justice, and promote international accountability and human rights. It will also advocate for the expansion of effective programs and services for survivors and vulnerable communities in Iraq. This new program is a part of Yazda’s holistic care project for survivors, “Assisting Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Through Direct Services & Increasing Their Knowledge on Justice, Accountability & Legal Rights,’’ which is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Survivors are rarely involved in decision-making processes on issues that directly concern them, such as humanitarian programming, access to justice, and peace negotiations. This new program addresses non-inclusion of survivors and communities and will allow understanding, recognizing, and re-building societies who have experience collective trauma and conflict.
This survivor-centred network also challenges the assumption that traumatized survivors cannot be expected to speak for themselves. In fact, when given the right support, survivors have consistently proven themselves to be resilient and effective advocates for their own needs and those of their peers and community members. 20 Yazidi survivors have already joined the Network and more are expected to join. The current members stated that:
“By joining this network, we wish to defend our rights and to be consulted on decisions related to us and our communities. Many of us have been advocating for years and since our release from Daesh captivity. While we have seen some results, a lot still needs to be done. We hope that speaking up collectively and not as isolated individuals will have a greater impact and finally improve our current situation. Together we are loud and powerful beyond measure. Together we will lead and bring change.”
The YSN will operate at two levels - globally and nationally in Iraq.
The international dimension is essential: It will bring together survivors from different countries where large numbers of Yazidi survivors have recently resettled such as Germany, Canada, Australia, and France. The YSN also aims to connect Yazidi survivors with survivors from other communities and cultures to support and learn from each other. The Yazidi survivors of the Network will also reach out to survivors from other communities in Iraq and Kurdistan, such as Christians, Shabaks, and Turkmens, and invite them to join the YSN.
At a global advocacy level, the YSN will enable Yazidis survivors to engage with world leaders, politicians, United Nations entities, and international NGOs, as well as universities and other public organisations to raise awareness about their needs and the needs of their communities for humanitarian programs, rebuilding, recognition of genocide, rebuilding their areas and justice and accountability.
At a national level, the YSN aims to contribute to breaking the collective silence on wartime sexual violence that continues to exist in Iraq. This institutionalized silence not only prevents survivors from accessing much-needed services, but it also entraps them into a vicious circle of isolation and trauma, and increases the risks of further exploitation or abuse.
As a part of the new services offered by the YSN, a total of 45 Yazidi survivors will receive training focused on helping them increase their knowledge, understanding, and awareness of victim rights to reparation and remedy for serious human rights violations under international law. They will also be trained on the Iraqi legal system, including the prospective “Yazidi Female Survivors’ Law” that has recently been proposed for legislative review in Iraqi Parliament. Among these 45 survivors, 15 survivors have already been trained by Yazda, with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), on transitional justice and advocacy in October and November 2019. These survivors stated that participating in the training sessions facilitated by Yazda helped them feel empowered, confident, more knowledgeable, and better able to advocate for their own rights, the reparations they seek and for necessary reforms of Iraqi law.
For more information, please contact the Survivors Support Team at: YSN@YAZDA.ORG