Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis had to flee from the Islamic State, like these people, who were photographed in a valley in the Sinjar mountains in December 2014 | Photo: picture alliance/AA
Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis had to flee from the Islamic State, like these people, who were photographed in a valley in the Sinjar mountains in December 2014 | Photo: picture alliance/AA

On the sixth anniversary of the Yazidi genocide at the hand of IS in Iraq, Germany's development minister has called for further commitment for those affected. The Yazidis' central council in Germany, meanwhile, sharply criticized the international community for a lack of willingness to clear up the atrocities.

German Development Minister Gerd Müller on Monday urged further commitment to Yazidis who suffered severe persecution under the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) terror organization in Iraq and in Syria.

Müller made the statement on the sixth anniversary (August 3) of the assault of IS on the Sinjar region in northern Iraq.

"These atrocities must not be simply forgotten," Müller said in a statement on the website of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Helping Yazidi women who are often severely traumatized due to kidnapping and rape was especially important, Müller said. According to the minister, enabling Yazidis to return to their homeland was also an important prospect to work on.

"We need to expose the full scale of the crimes in order to make it possible to prosecute and address them," Müller said further.

'Immeasurable suffering'

Müller spoke of "immeasurable suffering" that was inflicted on the Yazidis. Girls and women were raped, enslaved and forced to marry IS fighters. Roughly 360,000 people were displaced from their homeland, he said.

According to the minister, one third of the Yazidi population still lives in camps in northern Iraq as internally displaced persons (IDPs). To this day, "thousands of women are still missing or are in the hands of terrorists," Müller said. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) assumes that up to 200,000 Yazidis remain displaced.

In his online statement, Müller also spoke of a women's center in northern Iraq that offers medical help, trauma counseling and legal advice to more than 100 Yazidi women each day. In the Yazidis' home regions of Sinjar and Nineveh, the BMZ is helping rebuild day care centers, schools and roads, he highlighted.

Moreover, he spoke about the "cash for work" scheme, which provides incomes for 9,000 households as well as startup grants for Yazidis to start their own small businesses, according to Müller.

Yazidi council fears cultural extinction

Meanwhile, the Yazidi central council in Germany sharply criticized the international community for its alleged lack of willingness to address what exactly happened during the atrocities. "Legally, the genocide must be dealt with and cleared up more intensively," the council's chairman, Irfan Ortac, told news agency KNA.

Ortac said the Yazidis still facd extinction - no longer perhaps on the physical plane but at a historical level. Unless they were able to fully return to their homeland, their ancient culture was in risk of dying out, he said.

A new report by rights group Amnesty International, meanwhile, underscores the physical and mental plight of the Yazidi children who were freed from IS in recent years.

According to the report, which Amnesty says is based on dozens of interviews conducted in northern Iraq, nearly 2,000 children who faced torture, forced conscription, rape and other kinds of abuse at the hands of IS were not getting the care they need.

"While the nightmare of their past has receded, hardships remain for these children," said Matt Wells, deputy director of Amnesty's crisis response team.

According to the report, child survivors suffer "debilitating long-term injuries," as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, mood swings, aggression and flashbacks.

Another study, released last year on the fifth anniversary of the mass murder of the Yazidis, came to a similar conclusion: The support for resettled Yazidi women in Germany was insufficient, the authors of that study said.

Persecution and diaspora

Yazidis are a monotheistic religious minority among the Kurds with several hundred thousand members living around the world. Today, they are located in northern Syria, northwest Iran, southeast Turkey and, primarily, in northern Iraq, where the majority of them had to flee from the IS terror militia in 2014.

According to Germany's Federal Agency for Civic Education (BpB), there are Yazidi diaspora communities all around the globe - including now in Western Europe; with around 150,000 members, the largest Yazidi diaspora worldwide is 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 to be non-believers or "infidels," which is why Yazidis even today still often feel they need hide their identity in their homes in fear of suffering violence and abuse.

Reception programs in Germany and France

In February 2019, Germany's interior ministry passed a state-level reception program for persecuted Yazidis that has since welcomed 72 Yazidis from Iraq to the state of Brandenburg in eastern Germany.

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

Last November, 100 members of Iraq's Yazidi community arrived in Paris. The relocation was the final operation of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in support of French President Macron's 2018 commitment to receive 100 Yazidi families.

With material from epd, AFP, KNA


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