On February 6, 2020, the remains of 104 Yazidis killed by Daesh in 2014 will be returned to the village of Kocho in South Sinjar. After exhumation last year, the bodies were transported to Baghdad for the purpose of identification and evidence collection. On February 6, members of the Yazidi community will gather for a burial ceremony to honor the victims.
Who are the victims? As Nadia Murad, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, writes, “Among the deceased are my friends, neighbors, and two of my brothers. I miss my brothers every day. I am glad to be able to honor them with a proper burial, but my heart remains broken for the thousands of Yazidi families whose loved ones remain in mass graves. Living with this reality is a burden that weighs heavily on the Yazidi community. The longer we wait for exhumations and honorable burials, the more our communal trauma is exacerbated and our dignity denied.”
More than six years ago, on August 3, 2014, members of the terror organization Daesh (commonly referred to as Islamic State or ISIL) launched a violent attack against Yazidis in Sinjar, Iraq. Daesh fighters killed hundreds, if not thousands of men. As part of the same campaign, Daesh fighters abducted boys to turn them into child soldiers and women and girls for sex slavery. Thousands of women and girls are still missing and their fate is unknown. A few days after the attack on Sinjar, Daesh also attacked the Ninevah Plains and forced over 120,000 people to flee for their lives in the middle of the night.
Daesh committed murder, enslavement, deportation and forcible transfer of population, imprisonment, torture, abduction of women and children, exploitation, abuse, rape, sexual violence and forced marriage. The atrocities have been recognized, at an international level, as crimes against humanity, war crimes and even genocide, the crime of crimes. The number of those killed by Daesh is still not known. Mass graves continue to be discovered. Lessons learned from other historic mass atrocities suggest that mass graves will continue to be discovered for decades to come. For the families of those who disappeared, this is their harsh reality.
As some of the families still wait to hear about their loved ones, the whole communities await justice being done. The communities, once targeted for annihilation, deserve justice for the atrocities they have endured. The lack of justice sends the outrageous message that it is possible to get away with genocide. If we have learned anything from similar atrocities it is that we cannot allow an atmosphere of impunity to flourish.
Similarly, many survivors have not received the assistance they needed. The Iraqi Parliament is yet to vote on a new law that would ensure some support to the victims. Furthermore, thousands of Yazidi women and girls are still missing. More needs to be done to help survivors and families of the victims as they continue to suffer the consequences of the Daesh genocide. This genocide will continue until all these issues are addressed.
Images: Justice in Conflict, Twitter
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