Yazidi victims of IS massacres receive burial in Iraq

Nadia Murad's family members among 104 Yazidi victims laid to rest in Iraq
4 min read
04 February, 2021
Members of the Yazidi community will gather for a burial ceremony to honour 104 victims, as many more await identification.
Exhumation of a mass-grave of Yazidis killed by Islamic State (IS) in Kojo in 2019.[Getty]
The remains of scores of Yazidis murdered by the Islamic State group will be returned this week to the village of Kocho, South Sinjar, six years after the genocide of the religious and ethnic minority took place in northern Iraq.

Members of the Yazidi community will gather for a burial ceremony to honour the victims on Saturday.

IS launched a murderous campaign to eradicate non-Islamic influences in northern Iraq in August 2014, with the Kurdish religious minority, whose roots can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamian religions, one of the main targets of the mass murders.

After exhumation last year, 104 bodies were transported to Baghdad for identification and to collect evidence.

Among the deceased are friends, neighbours, and two brothers of prominent human rights activist Nadia Murad's, who was kidnapped from her hometown Kocho and held in captivity by IS militants.

"I miss my brothers every day. I am glad to be able to honour them with a proper burial, but my heart remains broken for the thousands of Yazidi families whose loved ones remain in mass graves," Murad said in a statement.

"Living with this reality is a burden that weighs heavily on the Yazidi community. The longer we wait for exhumations and honourable burials, the more our communal trauma is exacerbated and our dignity denied."

Murad, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and UNODC Goodwill Ambassador said more work will be needed to identify the remains that have been exhumed, which include those of her mother. Dozens of mass graves in Sinjar still await exhumation.

"Exhumations and burials for all Yazidi victims of genocide should be expedited out of respect for the deceased and survivors," Murad said.

The United Nations found in 2016 that the crimes perpetrated by IS against the Yazidi minority - the second largest after Iraq's Christian community - constitute genocide.

Murad worked with lawyer Amal Clooney, wife of the actor George Clooney, to pass a Security Council Resolution that resulted in the creation of UNITAD.

The UN investigative team works in collaboration with the Iraqi government to collect evidence of the atrocities committed by IS to be used in legal proceedings against captured militants.

The majority of these perpetrators are yet to be identified, arrested, and tried.

"It is not enough for ISIS fighters to be tried as terrorists. ISIS deployed a calculated genocide against Yazidis by massacring civilians, conscripting boys, and sexually enslaving women and girls," Murad said. "These atrocities were committed with the intention of eradicating the Yazidi people."

Read also: Iraqi Yazidi Nobel laureate says pandemic raising violence, trafficking

The activist called on the Iraqi courts and the international community to prosecute IS perpetrators for crimes against humanity.

"If the crimes of genocide and sexual violence go unadjudicated and unpunished, the precedent of impunity will threaten the security and human rights of minority groups everywhere," she said.

Over 2,800 Yazidi women and children are still missing and in captivity, while others live in displacement in camps.

Murad's advocacy work, focused on meeting with global leaders to shed light on the ongoing plight of the Yazidi people, has raised awareness about the need for justice following IS' genocidal campaign.

Nadia Murad was 21 years old when IS militants killed her mother and six of her brothers.

She was captured, along with many other women, and forced into sexual slavery for several months.

Since her escape, she has been advocating for victims of sexual violence and working to rebuild Yazidi communities. In 2018, she was selected as a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Murad praised the “perseverance of our community and the persistence of our faith and values".

"It is those values, shared by peoples around the world, that drive us to stand for our dignity and human rights in the face of persecution and indifference," she said.

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