Yazidi Survivors Network


The Yazidis Survivors Network (YSN) is a program that supports and empowers survivors of the ISIS Genocide, helping them to speak out about their experiences, express their needs, fight for justice, and puruse acountabilty and Human Rights on national and international levels. YSN will also advocate for the expansion of effective programs and services for survivors and their vulnerable communities in Iraq. Read the full announcement letter here.


One of the central aspects of ISIS’s genocidal attacks against Yazidi communities in August 2014 was the abduction and enslavement of more than 6,000 women and children. Women, men, girls and boys have endured sexual violence and trafficking; cultural, religious and social destruction; and ongoing torture.

For the survivors of these terrible atrocities, the trauma is severe and long-term. Further, there remain some 3,000 Yazidis in captivity. Thus the genocide continues to this day.

For over three years Yazda supported, managed and funded the global advocacy campaign led by Nobel Peace Prize Winner Nadia Murad. In the past five years, Yazda also supported Farida Abbas, Dalal Khero, Hala Safel and other survivors, assisting them in speaking out about their experiences during the genocide and their needs and the needs of their communties. This has played a key role in building a foundation for advocacy for justice, accountability, genocide recognition and brought huge attention to the sufferings of forgetting minority communities in Iraq and Syria. This advocacy must continue and be broadened, in order to maintain public attention on the ongoing situation facing small ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, and to continue calls for the international community to recognise the Yazidi genocide, acknowledge ISIS crimes against all Iraqi and Syrian communties, and take action to hold perpetrators accountable.

In addition, survivors are rarely involved in decision-making processes on issues that directly concern them, such as humanitarian programming, access to justice, and reconciliation negotiations. When survivors’ voices are not being heard, their needs cannot truly be met. This proposed survivor-centered network challenges the assumption that traumatized survivors cannot be expected to speak for themselves. In fact, when given the right support, survivors are proving to be effective advocates for their own needs, well able to make invaluable contributions at all levels of the response to conflict-related sexual violence.

However, the needs of survivors who take on a public role and share their personal stories, are immense. They require training to cope with media and public attention, care and support to manage the psychological impact of speaking about their own experiences, and skills in advocacy and key messaging. The responsibility that comes with being a survivor advocate should not be underestimated, and the pressures are too great for any one survivor to bear. Therefore, and as a part of this program, Yazda has started to train interested survivors on media, advocacy, justice, accountability and many other relevant topics. The trained survivors will become advocates on human rights and will be given a platform to share their experiences and needs and the needs of desperate people in Iraq and Syria, especially women and children, with government, universities, NGOs and people in general around the world.

Goals and Objectives

This campaign focuses on the following goals and objectives:

  • Promote international recognition of ISIS gencoide and other crimes against Yazidis and other communities in Iraq and Syria.
  • Advocate for the expansion of effective programs and services for survivors and their vulnerable communities in Iraq.
  • Advocate for official evidence collection and national and international prosecution of the perpetrators.
  • Advocate for those still in captivity or missing to be freed, and for survivors to be supported to rebuild their lives, rejoin their communities and actively participate in shaping their communities.
  • Seek support for the rebuilding of the community in Sinjar and Nineveh plain
  • Promote human rights, especially children and women's rights.
  • Fight terrorism and extremism and promote programs for deradicalisation and informal justice

Research and Evidence

  • A powerful tool:
Research has found that survivor testimony is a powerful tool for change-making. In addition, sharing their stories can help survivors themselves through the healing process, provided they have the right support and are not exposed to re- traumatisation.
  • Empowerment:
This survivor-centered 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 effective advocates for their own needs and those of their peers and community members. They are veryable to make invaluable contributions at all levels of response to conflict-related violence, especially sexual violence. Research has consistently shown that survivors of sexual violence benefit from the opportunities to share their stories and collectively express their survivorship experiences and needs. Participating in dialogue with other survivors can help them feel more understood, stronger, and more confident. Speaking out about their personal experiences and engaging in decisions that affect their lives can strengthen their capacity to deal with their individual traumas and overcome overbearing societal stigmas.
  • Dealing with the media
Unfortunately, much of the media to date has not taken the needs of survivors into account, and some survivors who have spoken out have experienced a feeling of exploitation. A primary goal of this program should be to ensure that survivors feel their contribution is positive, and do not feel as though they have “sold their lives”. A recent study found that Yazidi women often perceived journalists operating in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to be behaving unethically in obtaining Yazidi women’s stories. They also expressed the “severe emotional toll of telling one’s story” and the simultaneous sense of urgency to speak out, as well as the frustration that doing so has not resulted in international action. The expectations of survivors need to be managed because survivors may anticipate that telling their story publicly will lead quickly to an outcome, either for themselves and their families, or more broadly for the Yazidi community. In addition, Yazidi women have been portrayed as one-dimensional victims of sexual violence. More media narratives should also include portrayal of women’s agency and survival. Research has found that many survivors tell of how they defied their perpetrators and helped one another survive. Less focus on victimhood and more on resilience and dignity may help in the recovery process. Finally, survivors who decide to share their stories publicly must also be able to freely choose when to stop doing so.

Members of Network

20 survivors have already joined the network. We apply a survivor-centered approach and publish only photos and bios of survivors who have already done advocacy work and wish to appear on our website. All survivors joining the network are informed about their rights and potential risks by our legal team. Once they understand the latter, survivors sign a consent form and are free to withdraw their consent at any time.

Partners and Supporters

Check back soon for more details.

Contact Us

Email us at ysn@yazda.org