UK recognises ‘acts of genocide’ against Yazidis by ISIL

In the Sinjar region of Iraq in 2014, ISIL fighters systematically killed and enslaved thousands of men and women.

Yazidi genocide
An Iraqi Yazidi refugee boy attends a commemoration in Thessaloniki, Greece, to mark three years since ISIL launched what the United Nations said was a genocidal campaign against Yazidis [File: Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters]

The United Kingdom has acknowledged that the ISIL (ISIS) group committed “acts of genocide” against the Yazidi people in 2014.

Marking the ninth anniversary of atrocities committed by ISIL against the Yazidi community, the UK’s decision on Tuesday follows a ruling by the German Federal Court of Justice which found a former ISIL fighter guilty of acts of genocide and crimes against humanity.

In the Sinjar region of Iraq in 2014, ISIL fighters systematically killed and enslaved thousands of men and women they considered “infidels” due to their religious beliefs.

While many fled to camps for internally displaced people (IDP) in Syria and Iraq, others found refuge abroad.

Britain’s Minister of State for the Middle East, Lord Ahmad, said the Yazidi population “suffered immensely at the hands of Daesh [ISIL] nine years ago, and the repercussions are still felt to this day. Justice and accountability are key for those whose lives have been devastated.”

Yazidi slaves
Leila Shamo displays tattoos she made while enslaved by ISIL fighters at her home near Khanke camp, near Dohuk, Iraq. Shamo, 34, wrote the names of her husband and two sons on her right forearm. On the inside of her left forearm, she wrote the date ISIL captured them all together; August 8, 2014 [File: Maya Alleruzzo/AP Photo]

He added: “Today, we have made the historic acknowledgement that acts of genocide were committed against the Yazidi people. This determination only strengthens our commitment to ensuring that they receive the compensation owed to them and can access meaningful justice.

“The UK will continue to play a leading role in eradicating Daesh, including through rebuilding communities affected by its terrorism and leading global efforts against its poisonous propaganda.”

The UK recognises five genocides: the Holocaust, Rwanda, Srebrenica, Cambodia and now the massacres against the Yazidi people.

Nadia Murad, president of Nadia’s Initiative, advocating for survivors of sexual violence, welcomed the move as a “significant gesture to the Yazidi people, as we continue to fight for accountability”.

“I hope that the British government will now begin to seek justice for the victims by holding British-born fighters to account. The world cannot afford to let [ISIL] members walk free. It sends a message to the world that you can murder and rape with impunity”

Iraqi Taha al-Jumailly is led into the courtroom at Frankfurt’s Higher Regional Court before the verdict is announced in Frankfurt, Germany [File: Frank Rumpenhorst/Pool via AP)

In 2021, a Frankfurt court sentenced Taha al-Jumailly, a former ISIL fighter, to life imprisonment for acts of Yazidi genocide, including the death of a five-year-old girl he bought as a slave and then chained up in the hot sun to die.

In June, Germany jailed a woman who joined ISIL for more than nine years for crimes against humanity after she kept a Yazidi woman as a slave.

The UK’s ambassador to Iraq, Stephen Hitchen, will formally announce the decision to recognise the treatment of the Yazidi people as genocide at a commemoration event in Baghdad, Iraq.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies