Iraq begins examining Yazidi mass graves remains

Iraqi Yazidi women mourn during the exhumation process of a mass grave in Iraq's northwestern region of Sinjar on March 15. (AP)
Updated 10 June 2019

Iraq begins examining Yazidi mass graves remains

  • Daesh militants slaughtered thousands of Yazidi men and boys, then abducted women and girls to be abused as sex slaves

BAGHDAD: The head of Iraq’s forensics administration said his office will begin DNA testing to identify the remains of 141 bodies found in mass graves, believed to contain the Yazidi victims of Daesh’s killing campaign five years ago.
Zaid Al-Yousef said the bodies were found in 12 graves located by Yazidi survivors in the Sinjar region in north Iraq.
Al-Yousef told The Associated Press on Sunday it will take until August to identify the remains.

Exhumation
The Iraqi government exhumed a mass grave containing victims of Daesh in the Yazidi stronghold left behind by Daesh in the northwestern Sinjar region, where militants brutally targeted the minority.
The exhumation, which was carried out with UN support, began on March 15 in the village of Kocho.
The militants rampaged across Sinjar in 2014, killing Yazidi men and abducting thousands of women and children. Many followers of the minority faith are still missing, after women were forced into sexual slavery and boys were indoctrinated in extremist ideology.
Over 70 mass graves have been discovered in Sinjar since it was liberated from Daesh in November 2015.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, a Yazidi who escaped Daesh and became an outspoken advocate for her community, attended the ceremony in her home village of Kojo to mark the start of exhumations.
The UN, which is assisting with the forensic work, says the first opening of a mass grave in the region will help to shed light on the fate those inhabitants killed by Daesh militants.
Hundreds of men and women from the village are believed to have been executed by the militants when they took over the area in 2014.
The Yazidi people were targeted by the Daesh militants who swept across northern Iraq in 2014 and seized their bastion of Sinjar near the border with Syria.
Daesh militants slaughtered thousands of Yazidi men and boys, then abducted women and girls to be abused as sex slaves.
The UN has said Daesh actions could amount to genocide. It is investigating its atrocities across Iraq, it added.
Murad called at Friday’s event for Iraq’s central authorities and those in the Kurdistan region to “protect the mass graves” so that proof could be found of the “genocide of the Yazidis.”
“There will not be reconciliation with the Arab tribes of our region if their dignitaries don’t give the names of those who carried out the crimes so they can be judged,” she said.
The head of the UN investigative team, Karim Khan, said the exhumation marked an “important moment” for the probe, with 73 mass graves discovered so far in Sinjar alone.
“The road toward accountability is a long one, and many challenges lay ahead,” he said in a statement.
“Notwithstanding this, the spirit of cooperation between the survivor community and the government of Iraq is to be applauded.”
Daesh is currently battling to defend the last shred of its crumbling “caliphate” across the border Syria in the face of Kurdish-led forces backed by an international coalition
The Yazidis are a religious minority with unique beliefs that distinguish them from Muslim and Christian worshippers in the region. The Kurdish-speaking Yazidis follow an ancient religion rooted in Zoroastrianism, but Daesh considered them to be “apostates.”


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.”