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KRG officials call upon the international community to help abducted Kurdish Yezidi women

THU, 16 OCT 2014 12:45 | KRG Cabinet

Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq (KRG.org) – KRG officials seek international mobilization to consider the cases of women abducted by ISIS terrorists. Following severe terrorists attacks against Kurdish Yezidi towns and villages in late July and early August, a large number of women and underage girls were abducted. According to various accounts, the victims suffer physical, mental, and emotional trauma. They are forced into sexual slavery, tortured, and transferred from one place to another.

In a statement to KRG.org Dr Nazand Begikhani, senior advisor to the KRG Prime Minister for Higher Education and Gender Issues and member of the KRG Women’s Rights Monitoring Board, said, “Local and international communities are now aware of these horrendous acts.” She added, “These acts qualify as crimes against humanity, and they should be recognised as such by the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.”

Due to the military and security situation on the ground, precise information is not available regarding the number of victims and their whereabouts. Secretary General of the KRG High Council of Women’s Affairs, Pakhshan Zangana, told KRG.org that she estimates the number to be between 700 and 1000, based on accounts given by displaced Yezidi Kurds and other sources. She said there are reports suggesting that the women are held at Badoush prison in Mosul, Talafar, and many others have been sent to Syria.

Dr Begikhani pointed out that these crimes are committed against women as a tactic of warfare, and there is a systematic strategy to abuse them. The tactic of abduction and sexual violence against women during conflict has been recognized as a threat to world peace and security by the United Nations Security Council in resolutions 1325 (2000) and 1820 (2008).

Action by KRG authorities

Dr Begikhani said, “The KRG has set up a task force which includes representatives from the Ministries of Justice, Interior, Labour and Social Affairs, and Martyrs and Anfal Affairs. The Prime Minister has also appointed a special envoy to Duhok [the governorate where most of the displaced people have taken refuge]. The aim of these task forces and special offices is to conduct needs assessments, provide adequate support and collect first hand data and documentation about the experiences of the displaced populations and violations of their human rights. The cases of kidnapped Yezidi women are included in these activities.”

The High Council of Women’s Affairs has been campaigning from the beginning at local and international levels. It has met and regularly informed United Nations representatives in Erbil and Baghdad in order to address the situation. It has also called on Arab states in the region to strongly condemn ISIS and to voice their opposition to what the terrorists are doing in the name of Islam, Secretary General Zangana told KRG.org.

The High Council of Women’s Affairs has also been talking to tribal leaders from the Kurdish Yezidi community and conducting campaigns to raise awareness among them so that they look at the abducted women as survivors of terrorism. This is to ensure that their society will welcome them back if they manage to escape or are released.

The KRG and the Kurdistan Parliament’s task forces recently met with members of the International Criminal Court with a view to mobilising international support to recognise the crimes committed by ISIS against Yezidis, Christians, Shabak and Kakayi Kurds as genocide.

At the grassroots level, women’s rights groups and individual activists have launched campaigns designed to inform wider public audiences about the abducted Kurdish Yezidi women. Their awareness programs have involved drafting petitions, launching international campaigns and issuing communiqués and statements published by media channels and also through social media.

Dr Begikhani stressed that international mobilisation at state and organisational levels is required, as well as the establishment of a fact-finding commission of experts at the international level to investigate and collect evidence of eye-witnesses, highlighting sexual violence against women. She said, “Such timely data and documentation should facilitate not only the prosecution of those responsible, but also the international recognition of these acts as genocide. The process should also include support mechanisms for healing, reparation, protection, compensation, preserving memories and reintegration of these women into normal life, including much needed post-trauma support for victims and families after release.”

She added, “It is urgent to begin action right now, as our field work indicates that 33 women already have escaped ISIS jails, joined their families and communities without receiving needed support. The Kurdistan Regional Government is willing to cooperate with international agencies with the aim of facilitating the prosecution of those responsible and the international recognition of the above-mentioned acts as genocide. The Iraqi government should also break the silence, recognise the gravity of the situation, and cooperate with the KRG to carry out joint activities, ensuring the provision of support mechanisms.”