In August 2014, ISIS attacked Yazidis-occupied Mount Sinjar, killing thousands of men while thousands of women and children were sex slavery. Just over five years later, up to 200,000 Yazidi peoples are still displaced across northern Iraq and around the world, and over 3,000 people are still missing. Some villages are still inaccessible and little or no effort has been made to restore the Yazidi way of life. In connection with minimal humanitarian and governmental efforts and a lack of resources for reparations and repairs, several militias have crept in since the liberation of IS in 2015 to “create a leadership vacuum that threatens the stability of the region” (Mednick 2018).
The history of the Yazidi population has been marked by strife and fighting since its inception. The Yazidi population, who are regularly attacked, have been persecuted, often ignored and ostracized by their predominantly Muslim neighbors because of their diverse religious beliefs. You are in northern Iraq and have become an epicenter of violence that is often overlooked and underrepresented by the quasi-independent region of Kurdistan and the Iraqi government. The Sinjar region and the Yazidis are poorly recognized internationally and continue to be neglected and underrepresented. You are vulnerable to attack, isolated and alone. By maintaining subversive narratives (“devil worshipers”) about the Yazidi religion and the volatile relationship between the Yazidi and their Kurdish and Iraqi neighbors, these actors have participated in the hatred and violence that is being sought against the Yazidi population.
A summary of the strategic approach: Serenity for Sinjar
Reconciliation can be seen more as a transformation and social process than as a final result in the search for peace (Lederach 1997). Transformation system that tries to move away from relationships that are characterized by distrust and violence towards one of mutual help and peaceful coexistence. The ability of multiple communities to coexist without resorting to violence is a small part of the reconciliation effort. Respect and social equality play a role, while elements such as reflection and acknowledgment of the past can help further build trust in relationships so that atonement and forgiveness can ultimately take place. While reconstruction is crucial in the Yazidi case, sometimes smaller steps of reconciliation, such as peaceful coexistence and mutual respect for fundamental human rights, represent significant results and are the best that can be asked of in societies recovering from severe conflict (van Koonen , Wirya 2017). .
This strategy (“Serenity for Sinjar”, Harris 2018) promotes freedom of choice in changing the surrounding narrative of the Yazidi people and building peace in the Sinjar region through rehabilitation efforts between the Yazidi and their neighbors – Iraqi and Kurdish peoples. This strategy is divided into three parts: justice, security and reparation. It is based on a study that includes interviews with the Yazidi population and their wishes after the Daesh attack (ISIS) in 2014. This strategy is not about solving all the many problems faced by the Yazidi people, but rather about pursuing the path of reparation and reconciliation in order to avoid future violence. Members of the Yazidi and international communities have already begun to work to physically repair the Yazidi homeland, but there does not appear to be any concrete reconstruction effort, and while reconstruction is vital, it is not enough. By restoring relations with the Kurdish and Iraqi people and building a community support system, this strategy aims to give stability to a region that remains turbulent and vulnerable.
This strategy defines justice as legally and socially just and just trial against those who committed war crimes against the Yazidis and as a continuation of the mass exhumation as they work to eradicate the collective guilt through community engagement and education of the Yazidis Schools to disperse. With a partnership between local and international aid and especially the Yazidi population, efforts are also being made to further repair the infrastructure in the Sinjar region. Good examples of those who are already working towards this goal – and those who can support these efforts – are Nadia Murad, a Yazid Daesh survivor, who campaigns for the Yazidi genocide through her organization Nadia’s initiative and Amal Clooney, an international human rights attorney who is already working closely with Nadia as her representative. Instead of going to local courts in Iraq that are heavily influenced by these Sharia – Islamic Koran law – This strategy provides that all trials against ISIS war criminals are dealt with by the International Criminal Court. The international community has already asked the international tribunal to bring ISIS members to justice. By partnering with those who are already waging this struggle, the goal is to bring the Yazidis a fair and equitable outcome and to free all impositions of the Islamic faith that have been a much controversy in the Yazidi community in the past. These trials would hold the perpetrators accountable and reassure them by bringing rightful justice to the Yazidi people on their way to redress.
In conjunction with the trials, mass exhumation of graves is essential to promote resilience and safety. There are reportedly 202 mass graves from the ISIS attacks on Sinjar. In March 2019, the United Nations began the exhumation of these tombs, and Iraq has begun identifying victims estimated at six to twelve thousand. While exhumation is a strenuous and emotionally draining process, these graves create leverage for the Yazidi people under the Iraqi government. Under laws derived from international human rights law and humanitarian law – both treaty and customary and international criminal law – the Iraqi government must: (a) Investigate, prosecute and punish those alleged serious violations of the law; (b) search for and identification of the dead; (c) disclose to victims and society at large all known facts and circumstances of past violations and abuses; (d) Provide adequate redress to victims, including measures for restitution, compensation, rehabilitation and satisfaction; and (e) ensure that recurrence of such violations and abuses is prevented (OHCHR). These legal obligations make the Iraqi government responsible for providing legal support to the Yazidis. This is the basis of the strategy as every legal step builds on it. As the government and the United Nations continue to excavate mass graves, the Yazidi people will be able to properly bury members of their community. The intergroup interaction between the Muslim-Iraqi members and the Yazidis also provides an “olive branch” for the broken population. With their trust in national and territorial government broken, these small steps can show that the Iraqi government is on their side. While this may be quite optimistic, as both the Iraqi government and the Kurdish government want Yazidi territory with general disregard for the people, these laws enforce a relationship that is beneficial to the Yazidi regardless of the actual intentions of the relationship.
In addition, the Yazidi population has expressed a wish that their Muslim neighbors denounce ISIS beliefs. Much of the Yazidi population believes in the collective guilt of their Sunni Arab neighbors. Through the involvement of Sunni Arab tribal leaders and other community members, the public fight against the idea that they are ISIS sympathizers through local authorities and the media offers the Yazidis comfort that they have often not received from their neighbors. In 2016, the Al-Shammar tribe dismissed ISIS ideologies and defended the Sinjar region in order to become an ally of the Yazidi. If you follow this example, other tribes may begin to reject these ideas and the term “sympathizer”. These denunciations need not be addressed directly to the Yazidis, but to the general public in order to work together to combat ISIS radicalism, which promotes a sense of security in the Yazidis and their neighbors in a mutually beneficial manner.
After all, social justice is essential for a peaceful way of life for the Yazidis. A compelling starting point is to revise the education system, which starts in the Sinjar region and grows across Iraq over a decade, to a less Islamic and more secular approach. Yazda, an NGO fighting against future Yazidi violence, has already carried out educational projects. You are a partner of IOM (International Organization for Migration) and YOU SAID (United States Agency for International Development) to provide 35 faculty members to schools in Sinjar and the surrounding area to fill teacher and school shortages. Providing a computer lab and robust learning environment teaching English, science, critical thinking and public engagement (Yazda). By creating a curriculum that is approached holistically and based on actual history and beliefs of the Yazidi, Yazda can help combat the “devil worshiper” narrative that haunts this population. By fixing relationships with help in the previous steps, debunking this narrative should be easier.
Traditionally, the Yazidis hold very strong beliefs about who can and cannot (or cannot) enter their religion and structure their community around their religious actors. After the 2014 ISIS takeover, the Baba Sheikh (“Pope”) and the Yazidi Spiritual Council – those who serve near Baba – decided that they would take back those who had been captured, women who had been taken back into sex slavery sold or forced to convert. The greeting of these women triggered a revolution in their religion (Otten 2018). By partnering with Free Yezidi Foundation, They continue to work to protect and support the Yazidi community through international awareness raising and projects, and can continue to provide support through women’s and children’s centers to heal those who were severely traumatized in the 2014 attack.
The Yazidi people have also expressed the need for armed defense. While giving firearms to untrained people is not ideal, with the help of UN-formed police units and their UN training, some Yazidi may benefit from adequate basic firearms training. One possible alternative would be to work with key stakeholders to communicate with Iraqi officials and use the peshmerga as a defense for the Yazidis. The Peshmerga has done this in the past. The Iraqi government has a duty to protect and prevent recurring crimes of this type. Given the pre-existing legal obligation and contact between the groups, this is more realistic given the political climate and the divided territory of the Shingal region until the Yazidi can gain autonomy in their security efforts.
Finally partner with key organizations like Nadia’s initiative and Amnesty InternationalThis strategy envisages continuing the reconstruction of the infrastructure with the help of the Iraqi government. This will create jobs to relieve psychological stress and encourage further contact between groups while increasing resilience at the same time. This will establish intercommunity business transactions through these established buildings. The funds for the reconstruction will be provided by NGOs that have already started this work. These simple projects will result in companies and operations being built from which both communities can benefit. This also creates work programs with NGOs to rebuild the community the way the Yazidis want to rebuild it, give them freedom of choice in their community, and cultivate relationships to rebuild trust. These Iraqi commitments revert to the above laws as they are required to provide adequate reparation and rehabilitation measures while allowing NGOs to continue advocating the Yazidi cause and gathering international support.
Root of the problem
Persecution is not a new phenomenon in the Yazidi community. There are two options for their ongoing condemnation: pathological dualism and scapegoat. The pathological dualism creates the idea of “us versus them,” which divides the world into good versus evil (Sacks 2015). A narrative was created around the Yazidis in which they were constructed as Satanists (an “evil” group). To protect themselves from the pervasive evils of this belief, surrounding Muslim groups have isolated the Yazidis, leaving them vulnerable and unprotected. The Yazidis have been dehumanized by the constant persecution of their neighbors due to their different religiosity, remain a minority and are known as devil worshipers. Although there has been no direct attack on the Yazidis by Arab / Muslim neighbors recently, they are implicated in the violence against the Yazidis and have not protected them in times of need. In 2014, the Iraqi and Kurdish governments withdrew troops before ISIS attacked, leaving the Yazidis exposed to the invaders. This was largely an impact on radicalism in the region, and in light of the power vacuum created by the IS withdrawal, it was easy to use the Yazidi as a scapegoat.
Scapegoat is defined as the willful blame placed on a given group for a variety of problems that cannot be fairly ascribed or remedied by changing that group alone (Sacks 2015). The friction between the Kurdish regional government and the Baghdad government over the territory has made the Yazidis an easy target as the Shingal region is located in this disputed land. The Yazidi do not fit into the sectarian mosaic of Iraq and have therefore isolated them and shaped the attitude towards and by the Yazidi. They also identify as an independent ethno-religious group that further isolates them. Persecution has become almost a central part of their identity, and since it is already geographically distant and used to this discrimination, it has forced it to become an “island culture” (National Geographic). These concepts prove that efforts must combat the Yazidi narrative and win the support of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi government and restore their relationship. It is important to note that if the KRG becomes dominant, the Iraqi government will play a lesser role, and vice versa. This strategy calls on the Iraqi government to lead the way with the actors as they have more obligations to help the Yazidis. It is imperative to show that the Yazidis and the Iraqi government can benefit from each other through rehabilitation efforts and creating a better life for the Yazidis.
Religious Actors, Community and Heritage
Because the Yazidis are an ethno-religious group, they are tied to both their religion and ethnicity, which further separates them from their Arab-Muslim neighbors. Religious actors like the Baba Sheikh can work with imams to change the narrative surrounding the Yazidi by identifying similarities between Yazidism and Islam. By speaking the language of their neighbors, recognizing shared beliefs about acceptance in both religions, and building trust, this can fill the gap in miscommunication and misinterpretation between these two communities. You can also participate in the five daily prayers together, which both Yazidism and Islam share. Qawwals are also important members of the Yazidi community as they are responsible for educating members of the Yazidi community about history and traditions. Not only can they continue to create a unified factor in their own communities, but with the Baba Sheikh and the permission of imams and tribal leaders, they can go into Muslim communities to educate others about the Yazidi traditions and defeat the narrative of the devil worshipers. You can also collaborate with Yazda To create educational initiatives to change the perceptions of others and to transcribe traditions and history so that there are physical texts that help create consistency and enhance educational efforts.
Policy Makers and Community
Past prime ministers have worked closely on the mass exhumation of graves, and US officials, past and present, have personally investigated security and economic conditions that would prevent displaced minorities, including the Yazidis, from returning to Iraq. The new Prime Minister Al-Kadhimi has shown great interest in the creation of a peaceful Middle East and Iraq. He plays a big role in how much can be done to support the Yazidis, but has strongly condemned the violence that has occurred and called for international aid to rebuild Iraq. He emphasized the importance of the Yazidis’ role in rebuilding their community and urged Yazidis women to share their stories of their violence with the world. His condemnation and call for help are a promising step in unifying Iraq to help the Yazidis.
Past and current Kurdish prime ministers have also taken promising steps to unite Kurdistan and Iraq on the Yazidi cause. Both former and current Prime Ministers Barzani have openly pledged to continue aid to house reconstruction and the release of abducted peoples in the devastated Yazidi regions, and have sought help from the Iraqi government and the international community. Your humanitarian policy and your concern for the reconstruction of Kurdish areas as well as your open condemnation of the violence of the Yazidis are encouraging. The current Prime Minister has also recognized the strength of the Yazidi people and applauds them for their continued defense of their identity and religion. Although he and the KRG are likely to play a lesser role if the Iraqi government steps up, the steps that both al-Kadhami and Barzani have taken hold a promising approach to a brighter future not just for the Yazidis but for the whole Iraq.
Stakeholders and veto players
Because this strategy is fully balanced between justice, fact, and community, the Yazidi people are the largest stakeholders. This strategy is based entirely on what the Yazidi want so that they are in complete control of what help to accept, how to accept it and what to do with it. Religious actors can refuse the help of local and international communities, but have expressly expressed the wish to be recognized and supported by their neighbors at national and international level. Repairing the broken relationships with their neighbors is of the utmost importance in order to feel validated and secure by the involvement of those affected and to maintain the integrity of the cause. Both prime ministers have the power to prevent aid from getting through. However, given their open condemnation of the violence and the urgency of local and international communities to help rebuild their territory, this is very unlikely. NGOs like Yazda, Free Yezidi Foundation, Amnesty International, and Nadia’s initiative also have the power to cut off aid but with most of these organizations targeting Yazidi this is unlikely. The complete eradication of aid has not been discussed by any of these actors, and until the rehabilitation efforts are fully met, these causes will sustain the Yazidi population.
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