How justice can be served for Iraq’s Yazidi victims of Daesh genocide

Mourners gather around as a coffin is buried a coffin during a mass funeral for Yazidi victims of the Daesh group in the northern Iraqi village of Kojo in Sinjar district, on February 6, 2021. (Photo by Zaid Al-Obeidi / AFP)
Mourners gather around as a coffin is buried a coffin during a mass funeral for Yazidi victims of the Daesh group in the northern Iraqi village of Kojo in Sinjar district, on February 6, 2021. (Photo by Zaid Al-Obeidi / AFP)
Short Url
Updated 21 February 2021

How justice can be served for Iraq’s Yazidi victims of Daesh genocide

How justice can be served for Iraq’s Yazidi victims of Daesh genocide
  • At least 104 Yazidis received some dignity in death when their remains were buried on Feb. 9 near Mount Sinjar
  • Popular societal misconceptions about the community created one of the preconditions for Daesh’s genocide attempt

MISSOURI, USA: The mass burial earlier this month of 104 Yazidi victims of Daesh massacres in Iraq’s Nineveh province was yet another somber occasion for a religious community scarred forever by its encounter with attempted extermination.

As the remains of the men, identified and exhumed from mass graves, were laid to rest on Feb. 9 in the village of Kocho near Mount Sinjar, video footage and photos of the event reminded the world of the horrific crimes the Yazidis of Iraq were subjected to less than seven years ago.

The UN has long determined that Daesh carried out genocide against the small community. The big question is, what are its chances of getting justice, if at all?




Justice and restitution will require more than prosecuting perpetrators of crimes against the Yazidis. (AFP)

At least the 104 murdered Yazidis received some dignity in death. In Baghdad, a ceremony was held for them at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and then their remains were brought to their homeland in northern Iraq.

Tens of thousands of other Yazidis who perished at the hands of the self-declared Islamic State remain unaccounted for. Their bodies most likely lie in various other unmarked mass graves created by the Daesh terrorists who rampaged across the region between 2014 and 2017. The victims’ families still await word of their loved ones’ fate.

According to the BBC, “there were believed to be an estimated 550,000 Yazidis living in Iraq before IS invaded on 3 August 2014. Some 360,000 Yazidis escaped and found refuge elsewhere.”

Of the many Yazidis that Daesh turned into slaves during their awful reign in the area, Amnesty International states that some 2,000 rescued children today are still not getting the care and rehabilitation they need. Yazidi villages and towns ravaged by Daesh still lie in ruins, with their former residents unable to return yet and instead languishing in displaced persons camps across northern Iraq.




Mourners gather around graves during a mass funeral for Yazidi victims of the Daesh group in the northern Iraqi village of Kojo in Sinjar district, on February 6, 2021.(Photo by Zaid Al-Obeidi / AFP)

Justice and restitution for the Yazidis will require more than just prosecuting Daesh collaborators, rebuilding their communities and compensating the survivors, however. Iraqi and Kurdish society’s treatment of Yazidis was problematic well before Daesh burst on the scene.

Iraqi society historically marginalized and ridiculed Yazidis for their faith, calling them “unbelievers” and “devil worshippers.” In reality, the Yazidi religion combines elements of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Popular misconceptions about and demonization of the Yazidi community created one of the preconditions for Daesh’s genocide attempt.

Genocide scholars such as Helen Fein identify four principal preconditions that generally precede genocidal episodes: The first and perhaps most important of these are that the victims be excluded from the main group. Such exclusion can go beyond the denial of citizenship or group membership.

When members of the group come to be viewed as sub-human (“devil worshippers” or “apostates”), the usual moral injunctions against murder fall away. Iraqi and Kurdistani leaders must therefore work harder to instill popular understanding of the Yazidis and their religion as a legitimate and important component of Iraq’s culture and heritage.

The Yazidis and their place within Iraq need to be celebrated and respected rather than tolerated.

FASTFACTS

Yazidis revere both Bible and Quran, but much of their own tradition is oral.

It is not possible to convert to Yazidism, only to be born into it.

An estimated 550,000 Yazidis lived in Iraq before Daesh’s invasion of Aug. 201.

Crises or opportunities from political vacuums constitute the second precondition for genocides. This happened in Iraq when the federal government and its army failed the Iraqi people. Baghdad’s failures in governance allowed popular discontent to swell, particularly among Iraq’s Sunni Arab population, and paved the way for the emergence of Daesh.

When the Iraqi army, whose leadership was packed with incompetent political appointees of the Nouri al-Maliki regime, fled in the face of inferior Daesh forces, the resulting crisis allowed the radicals to run amok.

Daesh rule over much of central and northern Iraq from 2014 to 2017 in turn fulfilled the third precondition for genocide, which comes in the form of a dictatorial state. Free of the checks and balances of democratic politics, the group’s leadership was accountable to no one and could massacre whomever it wished.




An Iraqi Yazidi woman attends a candle-lit vigil on August 3, 2020, marking the sixth anniversary of the Daesh group's attack on the Yazidi community in the northwestern Sinjar district. (Photo by Safin Hamed / AFP)​​​​

The fourth and final precondition for genocide comes in the form of bystanders — particularly powerful states in the international community — who remain unwilling to intervene. Luckily this turned out to be the missing precondition for Daesh’s genocidal dreams in Iraq and Syria.

The US, Iran, various European countries, the government in Baghdad, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and others all intervened to stop Daesh.

Rescue efforts in the late summer of 2014 to save fleeing Yazidis on Mount Shingal captured the world’s imagination, and the total elimination of an already small community was thankfully averted.

By 2017 Mosul was liberated from Daesh control, with the last remaining territories held by Daesh in Iraq following suit soon after.

Moving forward and granting Yazidis some measure of justice for what was done to them will require several things. Obviously as many of the perpetrators of the crimes against Yazidis as possible must be brought to justice. This is not impossible, but it does require political will and resources.

Yazidi towns and villages need faster and more sustained reconstruction. Even then, effecting a return of the Yazidi population will remain difficult within an ambiguous political context. The PKK, Shiite militias, Iraqi government forces and KRG forces all linger in Yazidi areas such as Shingal, with frequent Turkish air strikes occurring as well.




Iraqi Yazidis attend a candle-lit vigil in the Sharya area on August 3, 2020, marking the sixth anniversary of the Daesh group's attack on the Yazidi community in the northwestern Sinjar district. (Photo by Safin Hamed / AFP)

Whatever the interests of the local population, all these actors wish to maintain influence and control over the future of the Yazidi region. The quickest way out of such a mess would be to accede to the demands of various Yazidi groups themselves.

They want increased levels of autonomy in their homeland, which would allow them to determine their own fate and provide for their own security in cooperation with both Baghdad and the nearby KRG. The Iraqi Constitution of 2005 allows for, and even envisions, the emergence of multiple regions beyond Iraq’s single region of Kurdistan.

This should seriously be contemplated for both the Yazidis and Christians of Shingal and the Nineveh plains. Sunni Arabs in that area would become a minority of such a region, but could easily enjoy vastly superior guarantees and protections than those that Yazidis and Christians recently had within Iraq.




Yazidi women grieve during the funeral of Baba Sheikh Khurto Hajji Ismail, supreme spiritual leader of the Yazidi religious minority, in the Iraqi town of Sheikhan, 50 km northeast of Mosul, on October 2, 2020. (Photo by Safin Hamed / AFP)

On a more general level, Iraq must adopt measures to make its constitutional guarantees to the Yazidis and other minorities more than just words on paper.

Article 2 of the Iraqi Constitution states, in Part One, that “Islam is the official religion of the State and is a foundation source of legislation.” But it goes on to say, in Part Two, that “This Constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights to freedom of religious belief and practice of all individuals such as Christians, Yazidis, and Mandean Sabeans.”

Awareness campaigns and legal initiatives to prevent discrimination against Yazidis and others could make the promises from this section of the constitution more of a reality. Just as Iraq in general has gone a long way towards recognizing Iraqi Kurds as a legitimate and important component of Iraq, so too could Yazidis be recognized.

In this quest for some measure of justice, the international community should also offer whatever assistance it can. As they continue to exhume their dead from various mass graves, the Yazidi community deserves at least this much.

_____________

David Romano is Thomas G. Strong Professor of Middle East Politics at Missouri State University


Libyan FM calls for ‘stability, peace, security’

Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush, Libya’s first woman foreign minister, speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News. (AN Photo/Francesco Bongarrà)
Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush, Libya’s first woman foreign minister, speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News. (AN Photo/Francesco Bongarrà)
Updated 6 min 9 sec ago

Libyan FM calls for ‘stability, peace, security’

Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush, Libya’s first woman foreign minister, speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News. (AN Photo/Francesco Bongarrà)
  • Tripoli laying path for ‘fair, legal elections,’ minister tells Italian MPs

ROME: “Stability, peace and security” are Libya’s major priorities ahead of the country’s next elections, Foreign Minister Najla El-Mangoush told a meeting of Italian MPs.

Speaking in a hearing of the Italian Chamber of Deputies’ foreign affairs committee attended by Arab News, El-Mangoush said that Libya’s transitional government intends to “talk to everyone the same way and put a new agenda on the table.”

“Peace and security will not be possible without regional and international support,” she said.

Libya’s first woman foreign minister addressed Italian MPs for more than an hour, and was quizzed on her Cabinet’s views on issues ranging from Libya’s relationship with Italy to tackling illegal immigration. 

She said that Libya takes responsibility for violations of migrants’ rights in its territory, but urged the global community to adopt a “different and alternative approach” to stop the flow of illegal immigrants crossing the country’s southern borders.

“Illegal immigration is a broad and thorny topic. However, it is not only a Libyan issue, but a regional and an international one,” El-Mangoush said.

“I ask the international community to be practical and proactive: You need a strategy that is consistent with the current phase. Blaming the coast guard is useless. We have an uninterrupted flow of migrants coming from African states. We do not know who is coming: They could be criminals or sick.

“We are against the violation of human rights and we are sad for the condition of these migrants, but Libya is a transit country for migratory flows and our resources are limited.”

She added that “in southern Libya, we have a famine in progress. What can you ask to a people on the edge  of famine? How can these people help somebody arriving from the south if they need help themselves? Please, don’t blame us, but try to understand the difficult situation we are facing. We have limited resources and outdated policies to deal with this.”

Discussing the withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya, the minister said she believes this will not happen in a day, but will be the result of long negotiations. However, she believes that the dialogue with several states involved “gives us hope.”

“For us, sovereignty is the top priority, so stability and security are in order to be able to hold democratic, clean and legal elections,” she said.  

“We asked everyone, including Turkey, for cooperation to get all foreign forces off Libyan soil. Our safe future depends on the withdrawal of foreign forces.”

El-Mangoush said that the Libyan government “wishes for an even bigger role for Italy to solve Libya’s crisis, to put an end to foreign interference and help us to release all foreign forces.”

She called for Italian help in economic, medical and cultural areas, including the restoration of Tripoli’s old town and ancient buildings in the center of Benghazi damaged by war.

“Only the Italians can do a good job,” she said.


Turkey seeks arrest of crypto boss over huge fraud, detains dozens

Turkey seeks arrest of crypto boss over huge fraud, detains dozens
Updated 32 min 46 sec ago

Turkey seeks arrest of crypto boss over huge fraud, detains dozens

Turkey seeks arrest of crypto boss over huge fraud, detains dozens
  • Police detained 62 people in raids over their alleged links to Thodex’s fugitive founder Faruk Fatih Ozer
  • Interior Minister spoke to his Albanian counterpart about the case after news surfaced Ozer fled to Albania

ISTANBUL: Turkey issued an international arrest warrant on Friday for the founder of a cryptocurrency exchange who fled with a reported $2 billion in investors’ assets, state media reported.
Police also detained 62 people in raids over their alleged links to Thodex, the company headed by the fugitive businessman Faruk Fatih Ozer.
He is being sought on charges of “fraud by using information systems, banks or credit institutions as a tool and founding a criminal organization,” the Anadolu news agency reported.
Turkish security officials on Thursday released a photo of Ozer going through passport control at Istanbul airport on his way to an undisclosed location.
Security sources later confirmed that Ozer — said to be 27 years old — has been in Albania since Tuesday.
The justice ministry has started legal proceedings to seek his arrest and extradition from the Albanian capital Tirana, Anadolu reported.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu spoke by phone with his Albanian counterpart about the case, the agency added.
The Thodex exchange suspended trading after posting a mysterious message on Wednesday saying it needed five days to deal with an unspecified outside investment.
Media reports said the exchange shut down while holding at least $2 billion from 391,000 investors.
The 62 suspects were apprehended in simultaneous raids carried out in eight cities including Turkey’s main hub Istanbul, Anadolu reported.
Police raided the company’s headquarters on the Asian side of Istanbul and seized computers and digital materials, press reports said.
Authorities also imposed an interim freeze on Ozer’s bank accounts, according to Anadolu.
Police have also issued arrest warrants for 16 other people, Anadolu said, without elaborating. There was no immediate information about those being held.
A lawyer for the investors, Oguz Evren Kilic, said Friday that the investigation into Thodex “is deepening.”
“Hundreds of thousands of users cannot get access to their digital wallets. The situation will get more serious unless a concrete step is taken” by Thodex, he told AFP by phone.
Kilic said his clients have already lodged complaints at the prosecutor’s office in Istanbul and other cities.
In a message posted on the company’s official Twitter account on Thursday, Ozer slammed the “baseless allegations” against him.
He said he was abroad for meetings with foreign investors and would return home “in a few days and cooperate with judicial authorities so that the truth can come out.”
Complaints against Thodex have increased by more than 1,160 percent over the week to April 20 compared to the previous week, according to Turkish customer complaint website Sikayetvar.
One investor who reached Sikayetvar said: “I have been unemployed for a year. I trusted Thodex and invested everything I have... I can’t sleep or eat. I am begging you, please help.”
Another said: “Why is Thodex’s CEO silent? Why are they victimising people. Are you making fun of us?“
Growing numbers of Turks are turning to cryptocurrencies in a bid to shield their savings in the face of a sharp decline in the value of the Turkish lira and high inflation.
The Turkish crypto market remains unregulated despite growing skepticism from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government about its safety.
Turkey’s central bank said last week it will ban the use of cryptocurrencies in payments for goods and services starting from April 30.
It warned that cryptocurrencies “entail significant risks” because the market is volatile and lacks oversight.


Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries

Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries
Updated 23 April 2021

Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries

Egypt, Russia to resume flights between both countries
  • Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi welcomed the resumption of flights
  • Putin expressed his country’s keenness to enhance various aspects of the bilateral relations with Egypt

DUBAI: Egypt and Russia have agreed to resume flights between the two countries after a five-year suspension, including Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh, Presidency’s website reported.
The decision comes after Egypt maintained security standards for its air travel and both sides reached agreements on other undisclosed issues.
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi welcomed the resumption of flights between the two countries in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
From his side, Putin expressed his country’s keenness to enhance various aspects of the bilateral relations with Egypt, praising the extended partnership between the two countries.
He also affirmed that Russia was counting on Egypt’s pivotal role in stabilizing its entire regional environment.
The report added that the call also covered discussions about developments in Libya and the Renaissance Dam file. It also covered issues of bilateral cooperation in investment, especially regarding the economic zone of the Suez Canal Corridor.
Russian aviation and tourism flights to Egypt were suspended after a Russian passenger plane crashed in the Sinai Peninsula on Oct. 31, 2015, with 224 people on board.


Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes
Updated 23 April 2021

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes

Over 120 wounded in east Jerusalem clashes
  • The violence flared outside one of the entrances to the walled Old City, after police had barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually gather
  • Tensions were fueled by the arrival of far-right Jews at the end of a march during which they harassed Palestinians and chanted “death to Arabs”

JERUSALEM: Over 100 Palestinians and 20 Israeli police were wounded in overnight clashes in annexed east Jerusalem, authorities said Friday, as tensions mount over a ban on gatherings and videos of attacks on youths.
The violence flared outside one of the entrances to the walled Old City, after police had barred access to some areas where Palestinians usually gather in large numbers during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Tensions were fueled by the arrival of far-right Jews at the end of a march during which they harassed Palestinians and chanted “death to Arabs.”
There have been nightly disturbances in the area since the start of Ramadan on April 13, with Palestinians outraged over police blocking access to the promenade around the walls, a popular gathering place after the end of the daytime Ramadan fast.
Police said that after night prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City “hundreds of rioters began disrupting the order violently, including throwing stones and objects at forces.”
Stun grenades were fired and water cannon deployed to disperse the “rioters” and force them toward less central areas of east Jerusalem, police said.
Police said officers attempted to “distinguish between them and those who finished prayers” and were not involved in the events.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said on Friday it had treated at least 105 people, with about 20 of them hospitalized.
Israeli police said 20 officers were injured, three of whom were taken to hospital.
“It was like a war zone; it was dangerous,” a Palestinian who was near the clashes outside the Old City told AFP. “That’s why I left the place.”
Tensions have been high in Jerusalem after a series of videos posted online in recent days showing young Arabs attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews and Jewish extremists taking to the street to bully Arabs in nightly confrontations.
On Thursday night, the Israeli extreme right group Lehava organized a march ending opposite the Old City attended by hundreds to protest the anti-Jewish violence.
Police erected barriers to keep them from entering the mainly Arab location.
The Palestinian presidency meanwhile condemned “the growing incitement by extremist far-right Israeli settler groups advocating for the killing of Arabs, which in recent days manifested in a wave of attacks against Palestinian civilians in the Old City.”
A statement late Thursday on the official Palestinian news agency Wafa urged the international community to protect Palestinians from the “settler” attacks, which it alleged were encouraged by the Israeli government.
Videos on social media also showed Palestinians attacking ultra-Orthodox Jews in the early hours of Friday, with reports of Israeli vehicles being stoned in and near east Jerusalem.
Police reported “a number of incidents overnight in which civilians were attacked, some of whom needed medical treatment.”
Jerusalem mayor Moshe Lion said he tried to cancel the Lehava march, but police told him it was legal, noting that “dozens” of Jews who attacked Arabs had been arrested in the past two weeks.
Speaking with public broadcaster Kan, Lion said he was in talks with leaders of the Palestinian east Jerusalem neighborhoods “to end this pointless violence.”
More than 50 people detained overnight were taken for a remand hearing on Friday morning, a statement from police said.


Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village
Updated 23 April 2021

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

Houthis abduct three civilians from Yemeni village

ADEN: Houthi "terrorists" have abducted three civilians from the Yemeni village of "Beit Al-Jabr" in the governorate of Dhamar, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.

The Houthis took their victims to a detention center in Jabal Al-Sharq district, in the same governorate controlled by the Iran-backed group, the report said.

The raiders claimed they were taking the victims under the pretext of setting up a funeral council, but the official Yemeni News Agency (Saba) quoted a local source as saying there was no such plan to establish a funeral council, SPA said.

According to the Saba source, the storming of the village was consistent with the "systematic policy of harassment" that the Houthi militia follows in dealing with the population in all areas under their control, SPA added.

Houthis earlier abducted Yemeni model and actress Entesar Al-Hammadi and two of her friends on Feb. 20 as they were traveling to shoot a TV drama series.

On Thursday, the captors reportedly placed Al-Hammadi in solitary confinement as punishment for her protest against her initial incarceration and prison conditions.