Yazidi refugee Salma Bakir, 9, from Iraq, waits with her family to be permitted by Macedonian police to board a train heading to the Serbian border | picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Muheisen
Yazidi refugee Salma Bakir, 9, from Iraq, waits with her family to be permitted by Macedonian police to board a train heading to the Serbian border | picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Muheisen

Five years after the mass murder of Yazidis in northern Iraq at the hands of IS, a new study says the consequences for Yazidi survivors in Germany are severe. Especially female Yazidis are traumatized by violence and rape; moreover, the support for resettled women was insufficient, the study criticized. Meanwhile, a court and Germany's Federal Foreign Office evaluated the security situation in northern Iraq for Yazidis quite differently.

Almost 80 percent of Yazidi women in Germany say they have been raped at the hands of the so-called Islamic State (IS), and half of those 80 percent said they were impregnated after being raped. That's according to a new study by published by the Göttingen-based human rights organization Society for Threatened Peoples.

One out of two of the 296 surveyed female Yazidis said they were raped at least 20 times, while every single one of them said she feared for her life during their captivity under the terror militia. Some 280,000 members of the small ethnic group still live in refugee camps where they were abandoned along with their traumatic experiences, according to the study.

In Iraq, many of the roughly 300,000 Yazidi IDPs (internally displaced people) say they are thinking about emigrating, according to the study. A majority of them consider it impossible to live in peace with Muslims in Iraq and to return to their destroyed settlement areas.

At the same time, Jan Ilhan Kizilhan, the lead researcher of the study, stressed that for many, emigration would "only be the last option," namely when Yazidis are "no longer able to survive in Iraq."

'Precarious' security situation?

The authors of the study called, among other things, for less bureaucratic solutions for family reunions, especially in Germany. The study found that husbands currently living in Iraq joining their families in Germany would have a positive effect on the distressed women.

The Society for Threatened Peoples researchers said that Yazidis also needed reconstruction aid as well as international mediation in the dispute between the central government in Baghdad and the regional government in Iraqi Kurdistan, where Yazidis live in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq — one of their two former major population centers.

On Wednesday, Germany's Federal Foreign Office said the security situation within the Sinjar region was "precarious." Although the region was officially under Badgad's control, the Iraqi government's ability to provide safety was "limited." According to a spokesperson of the office, there are still some 300,000 Yazidi IDPs (internally displaced people) in Iraq; in Sinjar, however, where approximately 600,000 Yazidis lived prior to the IS invasion, only an estimated 40,000 members of the ethnic group are left.

On Tuesday, a German court had rejected the asylum requests of an Iraqi Yazidi man and his sister. Contrary to the assessment of the Federal Foreign Office, the judges argued there was no danger of mass prosecution left in northern Iraq since IS was driven out. At first instance, lower courts had evaluated the security situation for Yazidis in northern Iraq differently.

This Saturday, the Yazidi community in the German state of Lower Saxony plans to commemorate the massacre at the hands of IS and give thanks for the refuge in Germany.

Reception programs in Germany

There are already several reception programs for Yazidis to resettle to Germany from Iraq. One of them is in the eastern German state of Brandenburg, which Germany's Federal Ministry of the Interior approved in February. According to information obtained by InfoMigrants, the first Yazidis are expected to arrive in Brandenburg in September 2019.

Another program, the German state Baden-Württemberg, took in some 1,100 Yazidi women and children in 2014.

Persecution and diaspora

Yazidis are a monotheistic religious minority among the Kurds with several hundred thousand members living in diaspora around the world. Today, they are located in northern Syria, northwest Iran, southeast Turkey and, primarily, in northern Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of them had to flee from the IS terror militia. The UN estimated that IS fighters murdered around 5,000 Yazidi men and abducted and enslaved 7,000 women.

With around 150,000 members, the largest Yazidi diaspora worldwide can be found in Germany. Yazidi beliefs unite elements of different Middle Eastern religions – particularly Islam, but also Christianity. Their religious center is Lalish — a city in Northern Iraq near Mosul.

Over the course of centuries, Yazidis were persecuted time and again – not only for religious reasons but also as an ethnic group because of their close affiliation with the Kurds.

Fundamental Muslims and Islamists like IS fighters consider Yazidis as non-believers or "infidels," which is why Yazidis even today still often hide their identity in their home areas in fear of suffering violence and abuse.

In 2017, the protection rate of Yazidi refugees in Germany dropped to 83 percent, which was 12 percent less compared to the previous year. In 2015, the protection rate for Yazidis was close to 100 percent during the height of the so-called refugee crisis and the IS reign of terror in northern Iraq and Syria.

At the end of January, the Yazidis worldly leader Prince Tahseen Said Beg passed away in Germany at the age of 85 after a long illness. On Saturday, his son, Hazem Tahsin Bek succeeded his late father as prince of the Yazidis. The new hereditary leader, a 56-year-old former deputy in the Iraqi Kurdish parliament, is in charge of running the community and cooperating with Kurdish authorities in the north and the federal government in Baghdad.

With material from KNA, AFP, epd


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