TRIGGER WARNING: MENTIONS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE, GENOCIDE, SEXUAL SLAVERY
WHO ARE THE YAZIDI PEOPLE
Have you heard of the Yazidi people and their rich culture and history? The Yazidi have long been the target of hate and violence, but their dwindling population remains strong and defiant. They reside in the Middle East and West Asia, most of which can be found in Northern Iraq, along Mount Sinjar. However, since the genesis of ISIS, some have sought refuge in Germany. They are a minority in Iraq, and less than 200,000 remain alive.
The Yazidis uphold they are the descendants of Adam, but not Eve, meaning that they are distinct from the rest of humanity. In turn, this means that preserving their unique culture and heritage is deeply important, so marrying outside of their community is frowned upon. Their religion has components of a variety of religions, including the Ancient Persian religion Zoroastrianism, and the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Nestorian Christianity, and Islam.
HISTORY OF GENOCIDES AGAINST THEM
The Yazidi people have had seventy-four genocides perpetrated against them. According to The Guardian, the Ottomans perpetuated seventy-two genocides against them during the 1700 and 1800s. The resilience of the Yazidi people cannot be understated.
In 2013, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi announced that the group his organization will be known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The group originated in Northern Iraq, but would spread to Syria and across the Middle East, and would commit unspeakable acts of terror against people across the global stage. ISIS targets the Yazidis because they falsely assert that they are “devil worshippers” and “spawns of satan.” ISIS assaulted Mount Sinjar where the majority of Yazidis reside. As a result, many Yazidis isolated themselves in the caves of Mount Sinjar.
VIOLENCE PERPETRATED AGAINST THE YAZIDIS BY ISIS
Yazidi women and girls as young as nine were captured and enslaved by ISIS militants, with the youngest, virgin girls costing the most. ISIS would hold “Slave Markets” and sell Yazidi women and girls to the highest bidder. Before the Slave Markets, girls would mutilate and harm themselves to appear unattractive to buyers. Some women and girls were slaughtered trying to protect their children and sisters, some raped and tortured until they died. The unspeakable terror committed by ISIS against the Yazidis cannot be overstated. Even after the defeat of ISIS, their impact runs deep in the roots of the Yazidi community. Many are unable to return to Northern Iraq, and most mourn the losses of their loved ones dead among the forty thousand killed by ISIS. Upwards of seven thousand women and girls were enslaved by ISIS, and 3000 are still enslaved or missing today.
Nobel Peace Prize Winner Nadia Murad stated that she wishes to be “the last girl in the world with a story like mine,” which is understandable upon learning about her harrowing story as a Yazidi woman enslaved by ISIS. Murad was born in Kocho, Iraq, and was living in her small village when ISIS brutalized her family in the community, killing upwards of 600 people. She was kidnapped, enslaved, raped, and tortured by ISIS militants while she was still a teenager.
In her own words, she describes what the slave market was like, “The slave market opened at night. We could hear the commotion downstairs where militants were registering and organizing, and when the first man entered the room, all the girls started screaming. It was like the scene of an explosion. We moaned as though wounded, doubling over and vomiting on the floor, but none of it stopped the militants. They paced around the room, staring at us, while we screamed and begged. They gravitated toward the most beautiful girls first, asking, “How old are you?” and examining their hair and mouths. “They are virgins, right?” they asked a guard, who nodded and said, “Of course!” like a shopkeeper taking pride in his product. Now the militants touched us anywhere they wanted, running their hands over our breasts and our legs as if we were animals.”
Sexual violence against women during war and conflict is not unique to ISIS’ genocide against Yazidi women but found in virtually every instance of war. Women taken as sex slaves, raped and murdered, torture, and other acts of violence against women, especially young women and girls. She is the sole survivor of the ISIS attack out of her family, her brother and father died and her sisters and nieces were enslaved.
CALLING UPON THE UN FOR TRIBUNAL INTO ISIS WAR CRIMES
After winning the Nobel Peace Prize, Murad was invited to the White House to speak to former President Trump alongside other survivors of religious persecution. Trump is dismissive towards her, belittles why she received the Nobel Peace Prize and doesn’t even look in her direction or at her for most of when he’s speaking to her. The apathy towards the Yazidi people is not unique to the United States, but many nations across the global stage.
Nadia Murad and International Human Rights Lawyer Amal Clooney called upon the international community to set up a tribunal to try ISIS to solve war crimes and crimes against humanity. They both assert that there must be accountability for the heinous crimes ISIS committed, as the scale of them are unrivaled in modern times. Without persecution of the perpetrators, what is hindering ISIS or other terrorist groups from committing genocides and sexual slavery again? Murad and Clooney’s efforts were fundamental in the establishment of UNITAD, the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL. UNITAD’s mandate is to establish a team to pursue efforts in holding ISIS/ISIL/Daesh accountable through collecting evidence that supports the claim that they committed genocide and crimes against humanity.
Nadia Murad detailed in her Nobel Lecture the following:
“So far, the perpetrators of the crimes which led to this genocide have not been brought to justice. I do not seek more sympathy; I want to translate those feelings into actions on the ground.
If the international community is serious about providing assistance to the victims of this genocide, and if we want the Yazidis to leave displacement camps and return to their areas, and give them confidence again, the international community should provide them with international protection under United Nations supervision. Without this international protection, there is no guarantee that we will not be subjected to other genocides from other terrorist groups. The international community must be committed to providing asylum and immigration opportunities to those who have become victims of this genocide.”