By: Mariah Abdel-Aziz
At the Center Stage:
In a statement marking seven years since ISIL terrorists brutally and systematically targeted religious minorities in Sinjar, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called on Iraqi authorities to begin implementation of the Yazidi Survivors Law to assist Yazidi and other survivors of ISIL atrocities.
A new Iraqi law to support Yazidi women survivors of crimes committed by ISIL terrorists, represents “a watershed moment” in addressing the wrongs committed against them and other minority groups, the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict told an event on Thursday, highlighting the need for effective reparations (UN, 2021).
Decoding in detail:
On 1 March, the Iraqi Parliament passed the Yazidi [Women] Survivors Law (YSL) to deliver long-awaited support not only for Yazidi women, but also for other ethno-religious survivors targeted by the ISIL extremist group, when it occupied large swathes of Iraq from 2014-2017.
“This law represents one concrete step taken by the Government of Iraq in the implementation of the joint communiqué on the Prevention and Response to conflict related sexual violence signed 2016, which calls for provision of services, livelihood support and reparations for survivors of sexual violence” said, Pramila Patten the United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The new law officially recognizes the genocide orchestrated against Yazadis, establishes a framework for financial and other concrete reparations, and provides redress.
Ms. Patten suggested three recommendations to ensure the law is effectively implemented, beginning with ensuring that the Iraqi Government heeds the voices of survivors and civil society from all groups impacted by ISIL’s reign of terror.
“This Law is survivor-centred, and its implementation must be as well”, she underscored.
Secondly, the special representative stressed that under the law, applications for reparations “must be accessible to all eligible survivors, including those in third countries”, and must include maximum flexibility in submitting applications in person, online, or with the assistance of a third party or organization.
Finally, the Government must allocate a budget for the law and commit to making it “a vital part of Iraq’s reconstruction”, said she.
“Delivering assistance to victims of genocide, which included widespread and systematic sexual violence, is a solemn, moral obligation for the global community”, concluded Ms. Patten.
- Nobel laureates add support:
“Victims are not to blame for sexual violence”, Nobel Laureate and UN Goodwill Ambassador for Dignity, Nadia Murad, told the meeting. Her NGO, Nadia’s Initiative, is aiming to sustainable rebuild the Yazidi homeland of Sinjar in northern Iraq, where many women were sold into sexual slavery and trafficked by ISIL fighters.
“An important part of ending conflict-related sexual violence is showing that we value the human rights and dignity of survivors”, she added.
The new law represents a milestone for not only recognizing and providing remedies for the suffering of Yazidis and others terrorized by ISIL, and puts Iraq in the small category of States prepared to take action to specifically address the rights and needs of the survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.
Discussions over implementing it include taking into account institutional infrastructure, sustainability, financing, and compliance with standards and best practices.
“Yazidi survivors cannot wait another seven years for support”, said Ms. Murad. “Their survival and wellbeing depend on acknowledgement and amends for what they survived”.
“Our meaningful insights should be involved”, said Ms. Murad, a Yazidi woman who was herself raped by ISIL extremists in Iraq, who enslaved thousands. “Survivors need to be part of the solution.”
Noting that the fund is not a substitute for justice, and that “criminals have to pay for their act”, Congolese gynecologist Dr. Mukwege, a vocal advocate against gender-based violence, said that “the Global Survivors Fund establishes a direct way for survivors to have access to reparations” and “will change individuals, families, and communities all around the world”.
Meanwhile, representing event co-host, South Africa, Dr. Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, spoke eloquently on the need for a multidisciplinary, multisectoral approach to protect the most vulnerable – both in times of conflict and peace.
Citing her own country, she pointed out that “the conflict and violence of Apartheid increased violence of toxic masculinity”, which underscored the need to strengthen law enforcement mechanisms; promote social cohesion; protect and reaffirm the rights of victims and survivors; and provide support to those affected by violence.
She advocated for more research to “have a deeper understanding” of the factors that lead to violence and to end the scourge of violence against women, saying, “I don’t think we yet are doing enough”.
The Yazidi Survivors Law, adopted in March 2021, recognized ISIL violations against women and girls, and requires the Government to compensate them.
Thousands were subjected to unimaginable violence on account of their identity, including sexual violence, mass executions, forced conversions and other crimes. Many remains in displacement camps or are still missing.
“These heinous acts committed by ISIL may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Full accountability of their perpetrators remains essential,” said Mr. Stéphane Dujarric, the UN Spokesperson.
Mr. Dujarric, and Nobel Laureate, Ms. Murad, are supporting the Iraqi Government’s efforts to ensure accountability and protect human rights, in accordance with the collective responsibility to protect communities from the most serious crimes under international law.
“Recognizing the pain and courage of the Yazidis, recovery and rehabilitation remain a priority,” said Mr. Dujarric.
United Nations News, (August 3, 2021): “UN chief underlines commitment to justice for Yazidis in Iraq”. Retrieved from: https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/08/1096952
United Nations News, (September 30, 2021): ” Iraq: ‘Moral obligation’ to ensure justice for Yazidi and other survivors of ISIL crimes”. Retrieved from: https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/09/1101852?utm_source=UN+News+-+Newsletter&utm_campaign=92e3087ab0-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_09_30_07_30&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fdbf1af606-92e3087ab0-107865001
Relief Web, (September 30, 2021):” Reparations for sexual violence in conflict – ‘what survivors want most, yet receive least’. Retrieved from: https://reliefweb.int/report/world/reparations-sexual-violence-conflict-what-survivors-want-most-yet-receive-least