More than 100 members of the Yazidi minority massacred by the ISIL (ISIS) armed group six years ago were laid to rest at a mass funeral in a northern Iraqi village.
Soldiers could be seen carrying coffins to the burial ground in Kocho, in Sinjar province, on Saturday as crowds gathered to mourn the dead.
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The bodies were exhumed from mass graves last year in an operation coordinated by the United Nations before being sent to the capital Baghdad for identification.
Iraq’s Martyrs’ Foundation has been overseeing the process and identified the 104 victims using DNA samples taken from their relatives.
The government agency has so far exhumed 16 mass graves of a total of 73 suspected sites.
One relative of a Yazidi who was killed, attending the funeral in Kocho, said some of the victims will not be found. “Some of these bones don’t exist any more because floods swept them away,” said Obeid Khalaf.
William Warda, founder of Hammurabi, an organisation that works to improve minority rights in Iraq, told Al Jazeera Yazidis are still afraid to return home to Sinjar.
“The strategy of the government is to close the [refugee] camps and encourage people to return to their homeland,” said Warda.
“But still the situation, especially in Sinjar, is critical and there is no trust to the security situation. As NGOs, we encourage people to return through programmes.”
ISIL ruled over parts of northern Iraq from 2014 to 2017. The armed group did not tolerate other faiths and tried to exterminate the Yazidis, a religious minority with beliefs that distinguish them from Muslim and Christian worshippers in the region.
They destroyed villages and religious sites, lined men up and shot them before kidnapping thousands of women and children, trading them in modern-day slavery.
Many children who were raised under ISIL and indoctrinated in the group’s ideology are believed to still be living in camps in Syria.
Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis are living in displacement while control and administration of the Sinjar region remain disputed among Iraqi politicians.
Sinjar, in Iraq’s northwestern Nineveh province and near the border with Syria, remains largely empty.
The United Nations has called the attacks on the Yazidi community in Iraq act of genocide against the minority group.