Yazidi leaders revoke ruling allowing ISIS rape survivors to return with children

About-face on decision to welcome children born of ISIS fathers points to divides within Yazidi community

This picture taken on April 13, 2019 at the Syrian Kurdish-run group Yazidi House's headquarters in the Syrian Yazidi village of Qizlajokh, about 35 kilometres west of Qamishli in the northeastern Hasake province, shows an Iraqi Yazidi woman rescued from the Islamic State (IS) group waiting to board buses bound for Sinjar in Iraq's Yazidi heartland. Syrian Kurds on April 13 repatriated 25 women and children from Iraq's Yazidi minority after freeing them during the final push against the Islamic State group, said an official with Yazidi House, which reunites rescued Yazidi children with surviving relatives. Iraq's Yazidis are a symbol of the suffering caused by IS during its rein over vast swathes of Syria and Iraq.  / AFP / Delil SOULEIMAN
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Yazidi leaders have ruled out accepting children born to Yazidi mothers and ISIS fathers into their community in Iraq, days after issuing a statement calling for their return.

The Yazidi Supreme Spiritual Council released a statement on Saturday reversing its earlier decision.

"We wanted to clarify to Yazidis that by referring to children of survivors, we never meant children born of rape, but children born to Yazidi parents who were abducted by ISIS," the statement said.

That contradicted last Thursday's ruling, which stipulated that all members of the faith must “accept all survivors and consider what they have been subjected to was out of their control.”

ISIS killed thousands of Yazidis when they overran the religious minority’s heartland of Sinjar in northern Iraq in 2014.

The terror group enslaved Yazidi women, resulting in hundreds of them giving birth after being raped by their captors.

The religious minority has historically rejected mixed marriages and children fathered by outsiders.

Women who escaped ISIS with children born of their captors have had to choose between abandoning their children or staying in exile in displacement camps in Syria.

Last week’s decision was hailed by international organisations.

Across the Middle East, rape can bring stigma to victims. The Yazidi community, which has faced generations of persecution, has guarded its membership tightly as a means of preservation.

Several Yazidi political parties and many groups strongly opposed the move to welcome the children, said Murad Ismael, executive director of the global Yazidi organisation, Yazda.

"The magnitude of ISIS crimes makes it extremely difficult for many people to accept raising children linked to ISIS," Mr Ismael said on Twitter.

"I still believe the best way is to retrieve these women and children and relocate them to a country that will provide them with safety."

This reversal follows mainly negative reactions to the decision among the Yazidi community, said Elizabeth Tsurkov, a research fellow at the Forum for Regional Thinking in Israel.

“The reactions to the decision among Yazidis varied, with women in particular welcoming the decision," Ms Turkov said.

"However, the online and offline discourse regarding the decision, dominated by men, was overwhelmingly negative."

Iraqi family law further complicates the matter. Even if the community accepted and recognised the children of Yazidi survivors as Yazidis, they would still face legal difficulties.

The law stipulates that a child will be registered under the nationality and religion of their father.