Iraq: UN begins exhuming Yazidi mass graves where Nadia Murad's mother is believed to lie

ISIS killed hundreds of Yazidis in villages of Solage and Kojo in Iraq's Sinjar district

Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk towards the Syrian border, on the outskirts of Sinjar mountain, near the Syrian border town of Elierbeh of Al-Hasakah Governorate, Iraq, August 11, 2014. Picture taken August 11, 2014. REUTERS/Rodi Said/File Photo SEARCH "POY DECADE" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2019 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
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A UN team on Sunday began to exhume Yazidi mass graves in northern Iraq where Nobel laureate Nadia Murad believes her mother was buried.

The team began their work in the villages of Solage and Kojo in Sinjar district, home to the ethno-religious Yazidi minority whose members were killed in their thousands by ISIS six years ago after the extremists seized large parts of Iraq and Syria.

Ms Murad is one of many Yazidis who hope to identify missing relatives and friends among the bodies exhumed and give them a proper burial.

“For six long years, I and other survivors were denied the right to bury our loved ones with dignity," she said on Twitter.

"Today, I am overwhelmed with emotion as the mass grave where she [lies] beside other Yazidi women is finally exhumed."

Ms Murad is from Kojo, the site of the worst massacre that took place after Yazidi villagers refused to convert to Islam.

ISIS took hundreds of women captive and killed more than 400 men in the village.

For several years, Sinjar was the site of what the UN called an ISIS-led genocidal campaign against the Yazidis.

The extremists shot, beheaded or burnt alive the group’s members and kidnapped thousands, especially its women, many of whom were forced into sexual slavery.

The UN team dealing with ISIS atrocities in Iraq, or Unitad, said it has completed preparations for DNA samples to be collected from families to help identify the exhumed remains.

"Unitad previously supported the exhumation of 16 mass graves in Kojo," the team said on Twitter.

"The 17th grave opened today will contribute additional evidence in support of ongoing investigations into the massacre against Yazidis that took place there."

Yazidi genocide survivors also want justice for the crimes committed in Sinjar, but remains unclear whether the evidence recovered will be sent to a court of law.

Iraqi President Barham Salih renewed his call for Parliament to approve the Yazidi female survivors bill and to expand it to other groups that were victim to ISIS.

The bill aims to recognise the 2014 events as a “genocide” and to declare August 3, the day ISIS attacked Sinjar, as a national holiday of remembrance.

“The tragedy of the Yazidis is a tragedy for all," Mr Salih tweeted.

"ISIS crimes must be punished, and victory for the victims is a national and moral duty."

Six years after the massacre, most of the 400,000 Yazidis in Iraq are still displaced.

Thousands of members are still unaccounted for and most of the community has yet to return home.

Iraq, which declared victory over ISIS in 2017, has yet to call the group's crimes against the Yazidis “genocide”, despite the UN’s recognition.