On 9 October 2020, the Iraqi government and the Kurdish Regional Government settled on an agreement regarding the return of the displaced Yazidi people to Sinjar. After nearly six years of displacement due to the atrocious genocide instigated by ISIL, the agreement will help the Yazidi people gain stability and security in their hometown.
The Yazidi genocide was responsible for causing irreversible harm and terror, as nearly 5000 Yazidis were murdered in the Sinjar Massacre alone. From there, the terrorist organization implemented forced conversion into Islam and abducted up to 10 000 civilians. The males were forced into becoming suicide bombers and soldiers for ISIL, while the females were taken as sex slaves and subjected to sexual violence. For years, those who escaped have been living in the harsh conditions of refugee camps, waiting for justice.
Now, after six years have passed, families are still searching for their lost loved ones. Over 70 mass graves have been discovered, but the process of identifying each individual has proved slow and time-consuming. While many victims have been recovered – both deceased and living – there are still thousands of Yazidis who are missing and unaccounted for. Activists like Ali Hussein al-Khansouri who have survived ISIL captivity are now tirelessly working to track down missing persons across Iraq and Syria. “Yazidi families just want to know if their loved ones are still alive or dead,” he says.
After the Iraqi victory against ISIL on 9 December 2017, Sinjar was released from the terrorist organization’s control, but the town remained a disputed region between Baghdad and Kurdistan. With the establishment of this historic deal that elevates Iraqi federal authority in Sinjar, it is possible for the Yazidi people to re-establish their lives and begin the process of rebuilding their hometown. UN Special Representative for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert expressed her hope that this arrangement could present “a new chapter for Sinjar, one in which the interests of the people of Sinjar come first.”
Additionally, the Kurdish Prime Minister has stated that he “would welcome further support from the international community for Sinjar, including assistance in repairing critical infrastructure, to help rebuild the many lives destroyed.”
Indeed, it is important to acknowledge the irreparable damage and hardships the Yazidi people have endured solely based on their religious beliefs. This agreement that allows for the restoration of Sinjar is a significant first step that will build the foundation for the gradual healing process of the Yazidi people. The global community is urged to help in whatever way they are able to, to allow for the installation of essential institutions like health facilities and education centres.
While this agreement cannot fully repair the irreversible damage caused to the Yazidi people of Sinjar, it is a step in the right direction that will aid in allowing the victims to heal in a dignified manner. After six long years of displacement, the citizens of Sinjar can finally begin restoring their homes and families.
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