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Money Welcome But No Panacea for Iraq’s Yezidi Victims

Freed Yezidi Captives Need Truth and Justice, Too

On Tuesday this week, two days before International Women’s Day and almost four years after ISIS attacks led to the deaths and captivity of thousands of Yezidis in Sinjar, northern Iraq, Iraq’s government has reportedly ordered IQD 2 million (US$1,700) be paid to every Yezidi released from ISIS captivity.

“Noor,”16, said an ISIS fighter raped her multiple times during two months in captivity. Deeply traumatized, she is one of the few Yezidi girls getting regular psychosocial treatment. © 2015 Rothna Begum/Human Rights Watch

This is a positive step for the Yezidi community. But the money will only go so far, and Yezidi women and girls still need more support to re-build their lives. The pay-out also does not address the hundreds of thousands of other victims of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS). A 2009 law allows for victims of “terrorism and military errors” to get compensation, but those who process the claims told me they have tens of thousands of cases piling up without enough staff, inspectors or finances available to meet demand.

Money is also only one aspect of support that ISIS victims need. Authorities should consider a gender-sensitive program with participation of survivors to understand their needs. It should include things like medical help, mental health care, and initiatives that give survivors the means to earn their own livelihoods. Many Yezidi women and girls told me they want jobs so they can support their families. Victims are also owed truth and justice. Iraq should create some form of national truth-telling mechanism to address the former, and do more on the latter.

So far, the trials of ISIS suspects in Iraq have been fundamentally flawed. Victims of ISIS abuse, including Yezidis, have not been able to participate in court proceedings, and state prosecutions that do go ahead are rampant with due process violations, on the broad charges of ISIS affiliation. Perhaps because of these failings, a Judicial Investigation Board for Crimes Against the Yezidis was announced in June 2017 to investigate ISIS’s crimes against them. But key Yezidi groups that support those formerly enslaved say they have never heard of the work of this body.

It is good that Iraq is making moves to financially support Yezidis who suffered so terribly under ISIS, but years on from the abuses that tore apart Iraqi society, there is still much more to do.

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