BAGHDAD (AP) — Yazidi community leaders and Iraqi politicians said Thursday that despite the military defeat of the Islamic State group, the religious minority attacked and enslaved by the extremists still lives in disarray, mostly in camps and with no security in their still-ruined hometowns.
The speakers gathered in Baghdad to commemorate five years since IS carried out coordinated attacks on a number of Yazidi villages in Iraq’s Sinjar region, massacring men and enslaving women and children in what the United Nations has called genocide.
“We are living this genocide until today, in all its details,” said Yazidi lawmaker Saib Khider. “Our wounds are still open.”
IS militants also transported Yazidi women and children into Syria and destroyed Yazidi sites. Even though IS was finally militarily defeated in its last territory in Syria last March, hundreds of Yazidis are still missing. Many children who were raised under IS and indoctrinated in jihadi ideology are believed to be still living in camps in Syria.
The extremist group considered the Kurdish-speaking religious minority to be heretics.
More than 400,000 Yazidis are living in displacement while control and administration of the Sinjar region remains disputed between Iraqi politicians. Over 70 mass graves have been identified but only a handful have been exhumed. The war against IS has displaced much of Iraq’s population, and only some of them have returned to their homes. Sinjar, in Iraq’s northwestern Nineveh province and near the border with Syria, remains largely empty.
Only days before the conference, two Yazidi men were kidnapped and killed by suspected IS militants in northeastern Sinjar — a traumatic reminder that the militants can still threaten them while the community seeks answers on the fate of hundreds of missing.
IS sleeper cells have continued to carry out attacks in different parts of Iraq, and the Iraqi military and security agencies recently launched operations to weed out the remaining militants.
Survivor Hala Safil, enslaved for three years, told the gathering that while the defeat of IS should be celebrated, there is a lot more to be done.
She called on the parliament to pass a law that offers compensation and rehabilitation for the survivors, and urged politicians to direct money to the destroyed villages so that people can go home and resume their lives. She also called for bringing the perpetrators of crimes against Yazidis to trial, what she called “real accountability” — not just speedy trials on charges of belonging to a terror group.
“Not a single family has been safe from this genocide,” she said, adding that every moment she spent in enslavement “were equal to a thousand deaths.”