Iraq to identify remains from Daesh graves in Yazidi area

UN began the joint probe efforts last year, and 12 grave sites around Kojo were exhumed by last month. (File/AFP)
Updated 06 June 2019

Iraq to identify remains from Daesh graves in Yazidi area

  • Daesh considered the Yazidis as “apostates” and committed numerous crimes against them
  • For every survivor there are 3-5 people missing

BAGHDAD: Iraqi authorities will begin identifying the remains of 141 people exhumed from mass graves in the Yazidi region of Sinjar, the head of Baghdad’s forensic office said Thursday.
“The remains will first be examined, and then DNA samples will be taken to compare with samples gathered from families,” Zaid Al-Yousef told AFP.
The efforts are part of an investigation by the Iraqi government and a special United Nations team to collect evidence of crimes committed by the Daesh group.
Daesh swept across swathes of Iraq in 2014, including the Sinjar region where the Yazidi minority was long based.
The Kurdish-speaking Yazidis follow an ancient religion, but Daesh considered them “apostates.”
The extremists forced thousands of Yazidi women and girls to be “sex slaves,” recruited boys to fight, and executed Yazidi men en masse in what the UN has said could amount to genocide.
The UN began its joint probe last year, exhuming the first mass graves of Daesh victims around the town of Kojo in Sinjar in March.
It said last month that 12 of 16 identified grave sites around Kojo had been exhumed.
But Yousef said the next phase of identifying the victims would be a fraught process.
“We took around 1,280 samples from families in Sinjar, but the problem is that for a lot of them, there’s just a single survivor and the rest are all missing,” he said.
“If we compare it with other terrorist attacks, we would find three, four, or five survivors for every missing person. But here, we have three, four, or five missing people for a single survivor,” Yousef added.
He said the identification process would also be impacted by the rate of intermarriage among Yazidis, who very rarely wed outside the community.
That insularity is part of what made Daesh’s 2014 sweep so scarring, with many Yazidi women who were abducted and raped by Daesh initially excommunicated.
Yazidi spiritual leader Baba Sheikh issued a decision the following year welcoming those women back home, but the fate of children born of those rapes remains unresolved and controversial.
Many Yazidi women who were kidnapped by Daesh have escaped in recent years, and dozens more fled to safety this year as Daesh’s “caliphate” crumbled in Syria, but several thousand remain missing.

Family backs Tlaib’s decision not to visit Israel

Updated 18 August 2019

Family backs Tlaib’s decision not to visit Israel

  • Israel said a humanitarian travel request by Tlaib would be considered as long as she promised not to promote a boycott against Israel

RAMALLAH: Relatives of a US congresswoman say they support her decision to decline Israel’s offer allowing her to visit them in the West Bank because the “right to travel should be provided to all without any conditions.”

Rashida Tlaib said she would not see her family, even after Israel lifted a ban on her entry, because the government had imposed restrictions on her trip.

“We totally understand her position and support her in her efforts. The right to travel should be provided to all without any conditions,” her uncle Bassam Tlaib told Arab News.

He was speaking from the family home in Beit Ur Al-Fuka, which is 3 km from the West Bank city of Ramallah, and was flanked by his elderly mother.

He said his niece had visited them many times in the past, but there had never been any conditions attached to her travel.

“She said we will meet when she can come without conditions,” Tlaib said. “One idea has been floated of flying the grandmother to the US or finding a way to have the two meetings in a third country. You know my mother is nearing 90 and it is not easy for her to travel but we are checking out all options.”

Tlaib, a Democrat, has criticized Israel’s policy toward Palestinians and had planned to make an official visit to the country.

Israel said a humanitarian travel request by Tlaib would be considered as long as she promised not to promote a boycott against Israel, local media reported.

But the congresswoman, who is Palestinian-American, lashed out on social media.

“I can’t allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me & use my love for my sity to bow down to their oppressive & racist policies,” she tweeted, using the word sity to refer to her grandmother. “Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in — fighting against racism, oppression & injustice.”

The NGO hosting and organizing the trip, Miftah, has been criticized by supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Hanan Ashrawi, the NGO’s founder, said her staff had organized other congressional trips. “This was the third trip we have organized, and we try to do our work professionally and seriously,” Ashrawi told Arab News. “Our very mission is to promote global dialogue and democracy.”

Ashrawi said the attacks on Miftah were unwarranted.  “Miftah has been targeted with the expressed goal of trying to discredit us even though our record is clear. We believe that they are trying to keep organizing congressional delegations within the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) monopoly, while we are trying to provide visitors with an opportunity to learn about Palestinian life under occupation and to understand the Palestinian narrative by providing opportunities for delegations to see and engage with Palestinians of all walks of life.” 

Ashrawi said Miftah had been “vetted” by the US Congress’ ethics committee. “We might not be able to bring hundreds of congress people like AIPAC, but we can bring a few and have them see, hear and interact with Palestinians.”

US President Donald Trump had called on Israel not to allow Tlaib and fellow congresswoman Ilhan Omar into Israel as admitting the two “would show great weakness.”

He tweeted that the pair “hate Israel and all Jewish people, and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace.”