Human Rights Advocates Petition for Greater US Involvement in Stopping Yazidi Genocide

A group of Yazidis from Iraq carrying their arrive at a makeshift camp at the Greek-Macedonian border
August 4, 2017

Two human rights advocates urged for greater United States involvement in providing political and social stability to Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh province, speaking on Thursday at the Hudson Institute on the third anniversary of the beginning of genocide committed against the Yazidis, a religious minority group occupying the region.

When the terror group ISIS conquered the region, it launched an attack on the Yazidis, killing over 300,000 people and enslaving at least another 300,000. According Pari Ibrahim of the Free Yazidi Foundation, the assault represents an attempt to displace and eradicate a people; men were killed, women and girls were sold as sex slaves, young boys were taken and brainwashed to become child soldiers for ISIS.

Ibrahim said the survivors of the genocide have relocated to Kurdistan, and foresee no possibility of returning to Nineveh unless the political climate stabilizes.

"For the Yazidis to go back home, we need to have a sense of security, which we don't have right now," she said. "Even when ISIS is gone, what are we going to do?"

Ibrahim added, however, that the internet has made it easier for people outside the region to see the atrocities committed against minority groups.

"We have internet and social media, which is why the Yazidi genocide became well-known around the world. So we have the technology to make sure these things don't go unnoticed," she said. "But without political framework, justice will never be possible."

Naomi Kikoler of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum said the Yazidi genocide is an ethnic cleansing unlike any other in the past few decades, but it has been brushed over because the U.S. government frames it as an isolated issue, and not one that affects the global political climate.

"We can talk about this issue as merely a human rights violation, but we need to talk about it as security concern, not just for Iraq and Kurdistan, but to the security of the US and other nations worldwide," she said.

According to Kikoler, genocides such as these are warnings of instability that expand outside of the Middle East and affect the rest of the world, in instances such as the Paris attacks in 2015. The United States cannot talk about stabilizing regions effectively unless it includes a plan for providing equal treatment to all religious minorities in any given area, she said.

"Unless we are actually going to be serious about restructuring the local politics in Nineveh, I think all of our rhetoric about helping religious minorities will ring hollow, I think," she said.