Yazda Launches Yazidi Survivors Network 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 under Daesh, empowering survivors to speak out about their experiences, express their needs, fight for justice, and promote international accountabilty and human rights. 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.


The YSN will also advocate for the expansion of effective programs and services for survivors and their vulnerable communities in Iraq. This new program also comes as a response to a humanitarian response problematic of non-inclusion of survivors and communities in understanding, recognizing, and re-building societies who have experience collective trauma and conflict. Survivors are rarely involved in decision-making processes on issues that directly concern them, such as humanitarian programming, access to justice, and peace negotiations. When the voices of survivors are not heard, their needs cannot truly be met.


This survivor-centered network 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 areveryable 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.

The YSN will operate at two levels,globally and nationally in Iraq. The international dimension is essential: bringing survivors from different countries where large numbers of Yazidi survivors have recently resettled such as Germany, Canada, Australia, and France. The YSN will also aim to bring Yazidi survivors, as well as survivors from other communities and cultures, together to learn from each other. The YSN also aims to connect with survivors from other communities in Iraq and Kurdistan, including those from Christians, Shabak, and Turkmen communities, in the hopes of welcoming them to the network. 


This safe space will enable solidarity, build confidence, and increase awareness of the commonalities and uniqueness of their multiple and parallel experiences. It will also help survivors gain further perspective on their personal experiences in a wider context of systematic sexual violence of conflict in Sinjar and other regions. It is the hope of Yazda that this will strengthen their resolve to mobilize lasting change by challenging the structural causes of conflict-related rape and sexual violence. On the international level, this new program will enable diplomacy mechanisms for Yazidis survivors to engage with world leaders, politicians, the United Nationsm, 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, and justice and acountability.      


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, 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 to Iraqi law. 



For more information, please contact Survivors Support Team at: