SHAFAQNA – The United Nations have acknowledged, in a report called “They came to destroy”, that fighters from the Islamic State armed group are committing genocide against Yazidis in Syria and Iraq. In 2014, IS jihadists massacred Yazidis in Sinjar. Tens of thousands were forced to flee. Thousands of girls and women were taken captive to be used as sex slaves.
Despite only being an estimated 700,000 Yazidis in the world, they have, at different times over centuries, been victims of oppression because of their religion. They are neither Muslims, nor Arabs and their faith is unique. That is the main reason why IS despise and target them.
“The islamic State armed group have made up an excuse to target them, and make their women and children sex slaves, and that is that they are ‘koufar’, meaning that they are non-believers or infidels,” Nuri Kino, the founder of A Demand For Action, a global initiative which seeks protection for ethnoreligious minorities in the Middle East, told RFI.
“They also say they are devil worshippers and that is just an excuse to kill people, to abduct, to destroy and to try to eradicate a whole population.”
In theory, the specific mention of genocide in this UN report is a major step forward since not so many “massacres” are recognised as such. The UN definition requires certain criteria.
“A genocide is an anti-group crime, it’s an international crime, with the specific intent to destroy a targeted group, so that’s the threshold of proof, and we’ve heard direct testimonies from the victims, especially the women,” Vivit Muntarbhorn, one of the UN commission members in charge of the inquiry, told RFI.
“In our past reports, we had already found other violations, such as crimes against humanity, war crimes, but the difference this time is that genocide is the crime of crimes, and it should really trigger a more assertive response, particularly from the Security council, bearing in mind that both Syria and Iraq are parties to the genocide convention which calls upon them to both prevent and punish genocide.”
The Yazidis themselves have welcomed the report.
“It means a lot to us, and we are very grateful, it was long overdue,” Hémin Anthony Chamon, the president of the organisation called “Yazidis of France, told RFI.
“We have worked really hard for Western countries to recognise what was and is still happening against Yazidis. Already in February, the EU Commission and the United States had acknowledged our plight, and said that this was a genocide. Now, the United Nations say it’s an on-going genocide…
“It is a leap forward. However the Yazidis need to remain on their guard, because it has yet to be approved by the UN general assemby and security council.”
It it is difficult to say if this will really lead to the prosecution of jihadists on charges of genocide. Some would argue that this is could change a lot of things, while others are skeptical at this stage.
“Even though it’s going to open up some form of a breakthrough, and I think that people will use this, and use it as a platform to try to open up legal avenues, and even political avenues… but because the UN is so politicised, and the issue is so sensitive in that it’s overlapping to many different interests, that it might actually fall short,” Catherine Shakdam, a political analyst on the Middle East, told RFI.
“Even though something has been given today, I’m not sure the UN will actually follow through, or that politicians will actually follow through, and help change anything.
“It’s a form of political postering where they are giving something to the public so that they can’t be blamed and can’t say that they haven’t done anything at all, so they’re giving a little nugget to the public to say ‘well this is what we’re saying, this is where we stand’… but I don’t really think that it’s going to be the breakthrough that people expect, and that the people deserve.”
The use of the word genocide is a breakthrough. However, a previous attempt to ask the UN security council to refer Syrian war crimes to the international criminal court failed due to objections from Russia and China.
The four independent commissioners claimed at least 3,200 Yazidis women and children were still being held by the militants.