Monday, 20 November 2017

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Iraq's Yazidis at risk of genocide

 Yazidi Genocide Iraq 2014. Photo Flickr Domenico 2.0 Generic CC BY-ND 2.0

12 August 2014 - Over the past few weeks, an estimated 250,000 members of religious minorities in Iraq have been forced to flee their homes due to the Islamic State's violent advancements.

The Yazidi population is especially vulnerable, as those who remain trapped face not only hunger and thirst but also are at risk of genocide, with the Islamic State (IS; previously known as ISIL) systematically targeting and attacking minorities in the areas where they are gaining control.  

The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has today released a statement calling for immediate action to be taken to protect vulnerable groups in Iraq.  

Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák stated: “All possible measures must be taken urgently to avoid a mass atrocity and potential genocide within days or hours – civilians need to be protected on the ground and escorted out of situations of extreme peril”. Izsak further cautioned that “the responsibility to protect populations at risk of atrocity crimes falls both on the Iraqi Government and the international community.”

IS has been accused of gross human rights violations which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. “Freedom of religion and belief is being denied in the most gross and systematic way possible – through the attempted extermination of religious minorities,” the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, said.   

The UN has received verified reports that IS is systematically hunting down members of minority groups who remain trapped in areas under their control and giving them the ultimatum, “convert or die,” stated Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. “We cannot stand by in the face of such atrocities. International actors must do all in their power to support those on the ground with the capacity to protect lives.”

Despite hundreds being helped to relative safety by Kurdish and Iraqi forces, around 40,000 Yazidis are reportedly still hiding in a mountainous region of Sinjar, where they have sought refuge from IS militants.

Who are the Yazidis?

  • There are estimated to be around 500,000 Yazidis worldwide, most living in Iraq's Nineveh plains.
  • Their religion incorporates elements of many faiths, including Zoroastrianism.
  • Shaykh Adi from the 12th century is the saint founder of Yazidism. His tomb in Lalesh in northern Iraq is the primary holy site for Yazidis.
  • The chief divine figure of the Yazidi is Melek Taus, worshipped in the form of a peacock.
  • The origins of the name Yazidi remains disputed. Possibly, it derives from the Persian "ized", which means angel or deity. The name Izidis simply means "worshippers of god", which is how Yazidis describe themselves.

 

UNRIC's backgrounder on Iraq

UNRIC’s related articles:
•    Minorities brutally attacked in Iraq
•    UN Report: Litany of human rights violations in Iraq
•    UN leaders condemn ISIL actions in Iraq

 

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