Yazidis in Iraq: 'The genocide is ongoing'

Yazidis in Iraq: 'The genocide is ongoing'
From Al Jazeera - November 6, 2017

Khanke camp, northern Iraq- Wahda cannot sleep. During the day, she and her husband are busy caring for their 10 daughters and two sons inside Khanke camp for displaced Iraqis, located in the country's north. It is at night that the memories come.

"I stay awake just thinking, and I am so angry I ca not sleep," Wahda, 41, told Al Jazeera. "I want to take revenge for my daughters."

Her family, who are Yazidi, lived until 2014 in Sinjar, where they owned a house, a car and a small business. The area was home to around 400,000 followers of the ancient Yazidi region before it was stormed by fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in August 2014.

ISIL fighters systematically murdered Yazidi men and elderly residents, and captured and enslaved women and children. The UNestimatedthat around 3,000 were murdered and 6,000 taken captive.

"Our neighbours were Sunni Muslims and they told ISIS where to find us," said Wahda, who did not provide a last name. "They wanted girls and they knew that we had so many girls."

Her family was taken into captivity, with the exception of her eldest daughter, Almas, who was visiting relatives. She was shot in the back of the head as she tried to escape.

Harrowing journey

Locked in a room, Wahda and her daughters witnessed the rape and murder of other women held captive. They were held in terrible conditions, regularly beaten and forced to convert to Islam.After two months, they escaped with the help of a friend who had learned of their captivity.After returning to Sinjar, Wahda managed to find her husband, who had survived ISIL's massacre.

Sinjar was destroyed. After a harrowing journey across the mountain, stepping over the corpses and shallow mass graves that littered the ground, the family made it to the relative safety of Khanke camp. As Wadha recounts these events, her five-year-old daughter begins to cry.

The mass murder and enslavement of Yazidis in Iraq drew international attention. France, Germany, Canada and Australia offered asylum, while international NGOs channelled funding towards the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Yazidis. But despite this, many have struggled to recover.

"We have had no psychological or physical support," Wahda said. "I tried several NGOs, but either they did not believe me that we were held in captivity, or they said that it was only two months, which is nothing, or that we were not eligible because we were not raped. But my daughters' backs were black from bruises, and we have seen a lot."

Khider Domle, a Yazidi researcher, academic and activist based in Dohuk, told Al Jazeera that while members of the Yazidi community have been offered basic supports, it is "not for the long term".

"Our psychological, social and religious identity has been destroyed," Domle said. "People are living all over the place, and they do not know what the future is. There have been no initiatives from the Iraqi government to help the displaced people return back to Sinjar; no national reconciliation process; no attempt to rebuild ruined infrastructure."

With local and international attention diverted to the ongoing battle against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, local activists say that the momentum behind an organised aid response for Yazidis appears to have dissipated. In the meantime, people within the Yazidi community are working to help each other.

Sexual slavery


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