With the rise of ISIS in the region, tolerance for the Yazidi minority of Iraq has diminished to such a low that survival of the people in Iraq is uncertain.
It has now been a year since a UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry determined that ISIS’ violence against the Yazidis constitutes a case of genocide, defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.
The Yazidis of Iraq, like many other minorities in the region, are disappearing from the country. At the very least 2,500 Yazidis have died directly at the hand of ISIS. With countless others being kidnapped and raped it is not hard to see why the minority group is slowly vanishing. Tragically, the group is quickly leaving its native country of Iraq with 90,000 immigrating to safer countries.
Indeed, the original Yazidi population in 2014 of 550,000 has all but dwindled in the face of ongoing persecution and searches for safe havens. The Yazidis have faced persecution in the past, mostly due to their religious practices, with many accusing the group of worshipping the devil.
In fact, the group has faced significant persecution up until recent history with abusers such as the Ottoman Turks perpetuating massacres. But with the rise of ISIS in the region, tolerance for the Yazidi minority of Iraq has diminished to such a low that survival of the people in Iraq is uncertain.
The flight of the Yazidis
The Yazidis in their flight from persecution have faced tremendous hardships perhaps identical to a life lived under ISIS occupation. Those displaced from their homes have faced adversities such as homelessness, lack of food security, trauma, increased infant mortality, unemployment, and illness. These difficulties come sadly just in an effort to escape ISIS itself. To live under the occupation of ISIS is such a fear for those that are susceptible to persecution, that the taking on of these hardships becomes a preferred choice.
The reality is however, that without definite means of survival in their displacement; life outside their homes becomes extremely difficult and refuge in the form of migration, arduous. Undeniably with the current refugee crisis creating such divisive discourse between those “pro” and “anti” to the predicament, the Yazidis like many other minorities fleeing crisis in the region become voiceless in their own exodus.
Not only are Yazidis lacking a voice in their native land, they are also voiceless in their aspirations to flee the country. Their narrative essentially drowns in the seas of domestic policy agendas and the fight against perceived terrorist influxes. The Yazidis are therefore caught between a ravaged homeland on one side, and an apathetic (and indeed many times hostile) asylum country on the other.
The fight for the Yazidis
The plight of the Yazidis alongside other minorities in the region has been acknowledged as a case of genocide by both the United States and the United Nations. The extent of what this recognition represents in pragmatic means has not been fully established, however. Certainly, individuals such as human rights lawyer Amal Clooney have begun advocating and preparing a case for prosecution in the International Criminal Court alongside Yazidi activists like Nadia Murad.
Groups such as the Yazda: Global Yazidi Organization has also emerged, largely in an effort to protect and ensure the safety of Yazidis both in Iraq and in the diaspora. Efforts to help the Yazidis in their current persecution are still largely new nevertheless, but with increased attention being given to the minority; Yazidi subsistence in Iraq looks feasible.
But without attention being given, one cannot be certain of the Yazidi case. The extent of their advocacy reaches only as far as the support of the international community goes. In the words of Yazidi activist Nadia Murad: “It is time for this tragedy to stop, and it is time for the world to see our wounds.” Indeed, it must be the international community that stops the Yazidi tragedy. But for it to do that the world must open its eyes and realize the plight of the Yazidi people. A plight that can easily be diminished by the work of the world as a whole.
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