Iraq must help Yazidis return to their villages around Mount Sinjar, where ISIS carried out a genocide against the religious minority five years ago, organizations, activists and politicians are saying.
The International Organization for Migration in Iraq, which helps vulnerable populations, marked the anniversary on August 3.
Former Kurdistan regional president Masoud Barzani called for Baghdad and the Kurdistan region to work together to rebuild the city of Shingal, also called Sinjar, at the base of the mountain.
In an event to commemorate five years since ISIS invaded Sinjar in August 2014 and began murdering men and kidnapping thousands of women, genocide survivor Hala Safil spoke about the need for justice, security and reconstruction.
Safil spoke in Baghdad and said that many members of the Yazidi community still live in displaced persons camps. "We are still living with genocide today," she said. This is because 400,000 Yazidis are still displaced and many thousands have left Iraq. ISIS destroyed villages and buried the men and women it murdered in more than 70 mass graves.
Little has been done to rebuild Yazidi villages or find the 3,000 Yazidis who remain missing.
Many of these graves were liberated from ISIS control in 2015 and 2016 but still have not been exhumed or properly documented. It took until late 2018 and earlier this year for international support to even begin documenting one of the graves. Despite more than 70 countries joining the US-led international anti-ISIS coalition, almost nothing has been done specifically to rebuild Yazidi villages, or find the 3,000 Yazidis who are still missing.
Yazidi activists, such as Nadia Murad, who won a Nobel Peace Prize, have continually called on the international community and US President Donald Trump to help.
Yazidis say that the security situation in Sinjar is still unstable and that rival militias, checkpoints and ISIS threats make it difficult to return. In addition, there are few resources. While some investment has been made in Mosul, a former regional ISIS capital, Yazidi areas nearby have received little. This shows how, despite billions in pledges for Iraq, little funding makes it to hard-hit areas.
Murad even wrote an article for The Washington Post, noting that the genocide continues today because of those who are missing and lack of help for victims. Unlike after the Holocaust, where the Nuremberg trials began in November 1945 and sought to bring some leading Nazis to justice, there have been few prosecutions of ISIS leaders or members. Instead, thousands of ISIS members currently held in detention facilities and displaced persons camps in Syria, are not being charged and the countries they came from, including hundreds from privileged backgrounds in Europe, refuse to take them back. Trump recently called on European countries to take back their ISIS members.
In northern Iraq's Kurdish region, Barzani called for Baghdad and the Kurdish region to work together to rebuild Sinjar. He called for further efforts to commemorate the genocide and to find missing Yazidis. Kurdistan region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani also called for helping "to ease the suffering of our Ezidi brother and sisters and to help them get back to their homes and compensate them for their losses."
These are important statements, but the question is whether Baghdad will actually allow more support to enter Sinjar and increase security there. The international community must also step up efforts rather than just pay lip service. Currently, most Yazidis in Iraq live in the Kurdistan region, where many hundreds of thousands fled in 2014. Those who did return say there is a lack of infrastructure, schools, healthcare and electricity in the villages and city they once inhabited.
Seth Frantzman is The Jerusalem Post's op-ed editor, a Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a founder of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.