Aug 2, 2021
USCIRF Commemorates the Seventh Anniversary of the Yazidi Genocide
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today commemorated the Yazidi Genocide and joined communities around the world in remembering the many Yazidis who lost their lives to atrocities committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) since 2014.
“On this seventh-year anniversary of the Yazidi Genocide, we remember with heavy hearts the thousands of innocent lives lost to ISIS,” USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza said. “As the Yazidi community struggles to recover from these unimaginable atrocities, we call on the United States to remain committed to providing assistance to Yazidis to help them return safely and rebuild their homes.”
Four years after the international coalition declared the defeat of ISIS, Yazidi survivors in Northern Iraq are still in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Duhok and in exile. Around 3,000 abducted Yazidi women and girls remain missing, many of them reportedly trafficked into sex, labor, or terrorism. Last month, almost 1,400 Yazidis were left homeless after a fire destroyed sections of the Sharya IDP camp. Additionally, their historic homeland of Sinjar remains mostly inhospitable for returnees, as the Iranian-backed militias, including the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), are stationed in Sinjar and guard the checkpoints between there and the IDP camps making the road nearly impassable at times.
On July 23, the U.S. State Department announced an additional $155 million in humanitarian assistance for Iraq, which will support Iraqis who were displaced by ISIS, including members of the Yazidi community.
“As we honor and commemorate the lives ISIS destroyed through execution, enslavement, sexual assault, and other atrocities, USCIRF encourages the U.S government and the international community to continue to support the Yazidi community and ensure that women and girls abducted by ISIS can reunite with their families,” USCIRF Commissioner Anurima Bhargava added. “Far too many ISIS fighters responsible for the genocide against the Yazidi community have yet to be held accountable in any form.”
On July 29, USCIRF held a joint hearing with the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on holding perpetrators of mass atrocities, both state and non-state actors, accountable for international crimes, including genocide, committed against religious communities. This followed a previous USCIRF hearing in May 2021 on genocide determinations by the U.S. government and next steps.
In its 2021 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. State Department designate ISIS as an Entity of Particular Concern, or EPC, and that the U.S. government continue to provide financial and technical assistance to Iraqi religious and ethnic minorities to stabilize and rebuild their communities. USCIRF also highlighted the ongoing trauma inflicted upon the Yazidi community in Sinjar in an episode of the USCIRF Spotlight Podcast released in February 2021.
In August 2019, Chair Maenza and Commissioner Bhargava traveled to Baghdad as part of a USCIRF delegation to stand with Yazidi survivors commemorating the thousands who experienced unspeakable atrocities at the hands of ISIS.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at firstname.lastname@example.org.