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CWA # 13, 18 May 2018

Global Politics
ISIS and the Yazidi victims: Why the World should stand up?

  Lakshmi V Menon

The Yazidis are still stuck in the vicious circle of despair, frustration, trauma and torture. They live in fear, insecurity and a sense of helpless vulnerability. It is just a matter of time before an explosion of radicalized terror occurs from these victims.

On 3 August 2014, Nadia Murad, a 21 years old Iraqi farm girl watched helplessly in horror as her own mother and six brothers were murdered. Soon she was transported to a camp and her identity became “Sabaya” (slave) with a number attached and was bought by an Islamic State fighter from the “Sabaya market”. The man knelt beside the bed and prayed before raping her. She cried and begged. When it was over, he prostrated to pray again, like the act of rape was a religious one.

In a world that believes the Yazidi genocide has ended, the future of the community is shadowed with uncertainty. The calculated conquest of the ISIS and its use of rape as a strategy is a major security and human rights concern today.

Is the Yazidi community’s prolonged demand for justice slowly transforming into a mentality of revenge? Why is the United Nations delaying in taking action? Can’t the International system decode why they should care? Will the Yazidi genocide be another Rwanda?

The Story of Nadiya Murad, the “Sabaya”

Nadia, like the other 7000 women and girls abducted by the ISIS, was traded from one ISIS fighter to another, forced to pray, dress up and put makeup on as preparation for rape. They were beaten, burned with cigarettes, gifted fatal infections and gang-raped till they fainted.

“He told us that Taus Malik” — one of seven angels to whom the Yazidis pray — “is not God. He said that Taus Malik is a devil and that because you worship the devil, you belong to us. We can sell you and use you as we see fit” recalled a 15 years old Yazidi rape victim.

ISIS’s Research and Fatwa department studied the Yazidis and concluded that as a Kurdish speaking community without a religious text, the Yazidis could be enslaved and systematically raped. They even released a Q&A pamphlet regarding its rulings. For example, one question read “Is it permissible to have an intercourse with the slave if she hasn’t reached her puberty?” the answer read “Yes, but if she is not fit for it then she can be enjoyed in other ways”.

What followed was pure evil. The attack on women was not merely to serve the sexual demands of fighters. ISIS used rape as a weapon and aimed to bring up the children born out of these rapes as “Cubs of the Caliphate” (or radicalized human weapons). Thus, sullying the Yazidi ethnicity and culture.

“The emirs sat against the wall and called us by name. We had to sit in a chair facing them. You had to look at them, and before you went in, they took away our scarves and anything we could have used to cover ourselves. When it was my turn, they made me stand four times. They made me turn around,” said a 19 years old victim unaware that she was just a small part of the larger strategic recruitment tool in the ISIS’ game-plan. These girls were used as a means to lure young men especially from conservative Muslim backgrounds where dating and casual sex is a taboo.

Will there be Justice?

Although the support of Human Rights Attorney Amal Alamuddin upgraded the massacre of Yazidis from a silent slaughter to an international issue, the UN for a prolonged period did not label it a ‘genocide’, because what took place was considered a “gendered genocide” (killing of males and abduction of females). As Janet Benshoof, president of the Global Justice Center in New York said “the crimes against women aren’t seen as genocide… not recognized until you see mass killings. Abduction does not look like genocide”.

Despite the UN tracking the crimes since 2014; Nadia Murad being appointed a Goodwill Ambassador of UN; and an ongoing campaign for separate and more action on the systematic sexual abuse of women as a crime of genocide, not a single ISIS fighter has yet been tried in court for the crimes against the Yazidis.

Recently, Turkey had accused the Yazidis of sheltering the PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) in Sinjar and had threatened that they will take “necessary action”. The last time, it was airstrikes that killed eight Yazidis. Iraq’s silence on the issue, hoping for an adverse effect on the Kurdistan movement, has catalyzed the revenge mentality of the Yazidis. For a quick background, PKK had helped the Yazidi victims escape from the ISIS but were soon requested to return to Turkey by the Yazidis. The gratitude turned affinity of Yazidis towards the PKK and their natural psychological reaction to abuse has had a positive correlation with the Yazidi recruitment into the PKK and other militant groups.

In December 2017, Yazidi fighters killed 52 Iraqi civilians. Clearly, the legal milestone of the UNSC unanimously voting to establish an international investigation to collect evidence of ISIS’ crimes (on 21st Sept 2017 – UNSC Resolution 2379 on Daesh accountability) made no difference to the local Yazidis. It made no difference to those who knew that their sister, daughter, wife or mother was one among the 3000 Yazidis still held captive by the ISIS… to those who knew that they are even today being tortured, raped and sold in slave markets and even on social media platforms for as less as $10.

Sadly, the world has forgotten about them and moved on. The Yazidis are still stuck in the vicious circle of despair, frustration, trauma and torture. They live in fear, insecurity and a sense of helpless vulnerability. It is just a matter of time before an explosion of radicalized terror occurs from these victims. If the world does not want more non-state actors posing a threat to global peace and security then the International society must act soon. Let this not be another Rwanda where all that was done was too late and too little.

Lakshmi V Menon is pursuing Masters in International Studies in Stella Maris College, Chennai. She is a graduate in Psychology from Women’s Christian College, Chennai

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