Nadia Murad urges Yazidis to return to homeland of Sinjar

Thousands of Yazidis still missing five years after ISIS genocide

Laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize and Iraqi Yazidi Nadia Murad gives a speech during a commemoration ceremony in Stuttgart, southern Germany, on August 3, 2019. The Central Yazidi Council in Germany commemorates the 5th anniversary of the genocide of the Yazidi in August 2014 when fighters of the Islamic State (IS) killed thousands of Yazidi in Iraq. / AFP / THOMAS KIENZLE

Nobel peace prize winner Nadia Murad has called on fellow members of the Yazidi faith to return to their homeland in northern Iraq, five years after ISIS launched a brutal attack on the community there.

Ms Murad was among thousands of Yazidi women captured by ISIS and forced into sexual slavery after the group attacked the Sinjar area in August 2014. She escaped after several months and has become a prominent campaigner against the use of sexual violence as weapon of war.

“More than 90,000 Yazidis have already returned to Sinjar but we need even more to return there so as to thwart ISIS’s plan to chase them out from Sinjar,” she said.

“The Kurdish and Iraqi authorities have done nothing for us and there is currently no local authority in the region of Sinjar,” she told an audience in the south-western city of Stuttgart during a commemoration ceremony hosted by the central Yazidi Council in Germany.

Iraq hosted more than half a million Yazidis before 2014. Since then about 100,000 have emigrated and 360,000 remain displaced.

Thousands of Yazidis were killed by ISIS and an estimated 6,400 were kidnapped, mostly women and children. The United Nations has described extremist group’s onslaught as genocide.

The world body designated a team to investigate crimes committed by ISIS in Iraq after the group overran large areas of the country's north and west in June 2014.

The body, known as Unitad, will gather evidence on war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide for use in Iraqi courts that will hold trials for ISIS militants, according to the UN resolution.

Investigators will analyse about 12,000 bodies from more than 200 mass graves, about 600,000 videos of crimes committed by ISIS and 15,000 pages from the group’s bureaucracy.

Iraq’s battle against ISIS destroyed much of the region’s infrastructure and agriculture, only a few thousand have been able to return to Sinjar, where most homes remain in ruins and services such as electricity, hospitals and clean water are scarce.

Ms Murad called on Iraqi and Kurdish officials to “compensate the Yazidi survivors of ISIS, but so far they have still had nothing”.

Some Yazidi families were given a one-off payment of $1,700 by the government in Baghdad. The sum is equivalent to a little more than three times the average monthly wage in Iraq.

Ms Murad urged authorities to restore public services in her homeland of Sinjar, including schools and hospitals.

Iraqi President Barham Salih sent a draft bill to parliament in April which, if passed, would classify atrocities committed by ISIS against Yazidi women as “genocide”.

Followers of the Yazidi faith have sought to preserve their identity among Iraq’s mainly Muslim population. Traditionally they have kept their community closed off and their rituals little known.

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