Eight years after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched its offensive in Sinjar – the beginning of its campaign of terror against the Yezidi population, over 200,000 survivors are still displaced and live in and outside of camps across the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The needs of displaced persons and returnees in Sinjar remain high.
A lack of adequate shelter and basic services in areas of origin – including running water, electricity, health care and education – means that achieving durable solutions to displacement for Yezidis who have returned and those who wish to do so is not easy. Families are forced to focus on meeting their most basic needs rather than on meaningfully rebuilding their lives.
In addition to the human toll, ISIL destroyed around 80 per cent of public infrastructure and 70 per cent of civilian homes in Sinjar City and surrounding areas. Approximately 85 per cent of Sinjar’s population led agriculture-based livelihoods before 2014, and ISIL fighters wiped out the region’s natural resources, sabotaged its irrigation canals and wells, stole or destroyed farming equipment and razed its farmland.
“In cooperation with civil society organizations, UN and government partners and a host of donor governments, IOM has been working to support the Yezidi community since 2014,” says IOM Iraq Chief of Mission, Giorgi Gigauri. “IOM’s mandate means not only working to address survivors’ urgent, immediate needs, but also working towards durable solutions at the same time – this can be seen in our support for the development and now implementation of the landmark Yezidi Survivors’ Law.”
Passed by the Iraqi Council of Representatives in March 2021, the law officially recognizes ISIL’s acts of genocide against Yezidis and other minority groups and establishes a framework for the provision of financial support and other forms of reparations to survivors. The Government of Iraq continues to support the Yezidi community through the newly established General Directorate of Survivors’ Affairs, which is tasked with implementing the law and ensuring that reparations make their way to survivors. Through cross-government cooperation and collaboration with local and international partners, the directorate is now quickly approaching the launch of the reparations registration process.
Mass executions, forced conversions, abduction and enslavement, systematic sexual violence and other heinous acts perpetrated by ISIL reflect a genocidal effort to destroy this historically persecuted ethnoreligious minority. Over 2,700 people remain missing; some are known to be in ISIL captivity, while the whereabouts of others is uncertain. Survivors – including Yezidis, but also members of the Shabak, Turkmen and Christian minorities – are unable to mourn lost family members, friends and neighbours, many of whom lie in unmarked and mass graves still awaiting exhumation eight years later.
“The scale of the atrocities committed against the Yezidi community is such that it will have an impact on generations to come. The Government of Iraq and the international community need to create conditions that will assure Yezidis that such atrocities will not happen again and support them in healing and rebuilding their lives,” says Sandra Orlovic, Reparations Officer with IOM Iraq.
Further investment in capacity building at the national and local levels by the international community is needed to better support Yezidis, Shabak, Turkmen and Christians in rebuilding their lives.