· Mr. William Wardas discussion during a seminar held by the Iraqi Forum for Human Rights Organizations on Saturday 6/8/2016 in Baghdad during the second anniversary of the Islamic States invasion of the territories of Iraqi minorities
We have entered the third year of the Islamic States invasion of the territories of Iraqi minorities, and yet the power of evil and darkness continues to control historical towns and cities belonging to Christians, Yazidies, Turkmen, Shabak, Kakais and others.
At the beginning of August 2014, ISIS invaded Tel Afar, that happened in the 3rd of August exactly when ISIS militants invaded Sinjar district which is predominantly Yazidi in its villages and communities, ISIS militants committed horrible acts of violence and numerous massacres in Kojo, Tal Banat, Rambosi and many other communities linked to the same district.
In the 7th of August, ISIS militants invaded the Nineveh plain territories such as Tel Kayf district, its villages and towns, in addition to Hamdaniya district and the villages and towns linked to it as well, the security forces gave up their responsibilities on the 6th of August, their responsibility, protecting civilians facing horrible conditions against the monsters of the Islamic State. Few managed to flee the area, others were caught and taken hostage and others were victims of murder, torture and slavery at the hands of the Islamic State members who knows no mercy.
In order to be credible when talking about this subject, we must give a brief explanation of what happened to minorities in the territories invaded by the Islamic State two years ago, their current conditions and the challenges they face, then we need to analyze this reality in order to provide our expectations of the future, and the possible solutions to protect them and guarantee their survival.
The Islamic State, as it is well known, have hit all Iraqi territories with the full package of violations, but the violations – according to our monitoring efforts continuously conducted through Hammurabi Human Rights Organization – targeting Iraqi minorities were the bloodiest and the most horrible, representing a flagrant violation which is the accurate description of this diagnosis.
The Islamic State is seeking to eliminate the existence of Christians and Yazidies, utilizing murder, forced displacement, captivation and sexual slavery.
Harsh living conditions such as detention, imprisonment, torture and coercion forced people to change religious affiliations and the conditions imposed upon them represented a slow death.
Children were taken away from their families, trained and removed from their religious and cultural environment.
Who refused to convert was killed.
Women and girls were sold in what is called captives market, abduction, property destruction and the bombing of religious and historical sites.
Keeping women as sex slaves, selling them, exchanging them and giving them as gifts.
The Islamic State have expressed its deed to eliminate Yazidies and Christians claiming they are infidel, it is permissible to enslave their women and consider them as spoils of war.
ISIS described Yazidies numerous times as a pagan minority.
ISIS considered the largest part of Shabak, which is Shiites, people who gave up the religion, describing them as (Rejectionists), they were included in the killing and displacement effort, most of their shrines and Husseiniyahs were destroyed and more than 55 Shabak villages were emptied from its residents in the Nineveh plain, the number of Shabak IDPs reached 200 thousand Shabaki.
More than 11 thousand KakaI was forced out of his home, it is true that there are not female kakaI sex slaves in the Islamic State, but ISIS have killed numerous KakaI civilians, in addition to the 3 Kakais whom were killed during the massacre of Speicher, 5 of their most important shrines were destroyed when ISIS invaded their villages.
Turkmen have suffered the same fate; killing and displacement, ISIS also used chemical gases against them in Taza and Albasheer in Kirkuk province, they have shown heroism in defending their territories in Amerli. The number of Turkmen IDPs have reached more than 300 thousand people.
As a result, minorities found themselves as groups of internally displaced people and refugees asking for asylum abroad, living in camps and communities lacking the elements for a decent living in a way that preserves human dignity.
According to HHROs statistics in 2015, the number of Yazidi Iraqi IDPs have reached 400 thousand, most of them living in the KRG, and about 20 thousand living in Turkey, while Christian IDPs have reached 200 thousand IDP, spread in the cities of the KRG, Baghdad and the neighboring countries such as Lebanon, while the number of Shabak IDPs have reached 150 thousand, most of them have moved to the center and the south of Iraq.
HHRO estimates the number of Kakai IDPs from Mosul and the Nineveh plain by 11 thousand IDP, staying in Kalak, Bardarash, Kirkuk and in villages in the outskirts of Daqooq.
Regardless of health and living conditions endured by the IDPs, there are lots of issues related to the educational reality and students dropping out of schools as a result of poverty and the long distances they have to cut to reach their schools from the displacement camps, in addition to having under qualified schools, if existing, in regards to the staff and the establishing structure.
In other regards, many psychological illnesses have gone worst, such as psychosis, depression, stress and the daily frustrations which could be seen on a daily basis in displacement camps, HHRO have documented numerous cases, adding to that the suffering of what is known as the group of surviving IDPs who escaped detention under the militants hands, while the majority of them are women and children whom are suffering from trauma, especially women and girls who have been sold and raped but managed to escape, the number of those is estimated to be up to 2000 men, women, girls and children, the horrible conditions experienced by IDPs have produces cases of depression which led to suicide, HHRO have documented 4 cases among Yazidies living in displacement camps within Duhok.
In the majority of the IDPs camps, you can see a clear problem lying within the clear decrease in cases of pregnancy and childbearing, for many reasons, psychical and mental conditions, and other reasons related to the lack of will by the men due to the harsh living conditions they are living through which doesn’t allow them to bear the burden of having a child and putting in the necessary care and work to raise the child.
At the end of 2015, HHRO conducted an assessment of about 12 complexes housing Christian IDPs in Erbil, only in these complexes the number of IDPs reaches 40,250 people, these complexes could be seen as (five star hotels) compared to the camps of Yazidies, Shabak, Kakais and others, which is a result of the Churchs effort in addition to what they receive from the local and international organizations, HHRO concluded the following:
Few of the residents of these camps are getting their storage of water from tanker trucks, in most cases the water is not clean, while the majority of the residents of these complexes share the showers and the bathrooms.
In regards to electricity, it was found that the residents of these camps and complexes receive what is about 12 to 15 hours of governmental electricity per day, and depends on generators to cover the rest of the day.
Most of these complexes have no doctors allocated to them, while 60% of IDPs are not visited by a doctor, and the majority of the camps are close to health centers while only 25% are located far from any health center.
According to testimonies by IDPs, HHRO was assured that 50% of IDPs don’t feel safe as a result of the weak security measures adopted in these complexes, while 40% of these complexes are guarded by trained guards, serious worries that terrorists or VBIEDs could reach these complexes are raising despite the fact that cars must be checked before entering.
· In light of this bitter reality we must look for solutions and for the future of minorities whom are in a very critical situation.
In order to solve this issue, the first thing we need to think about is to accelerate the liberation of their territories to guarantee their return to their original territories and to support the elements of return which could be concluded in three main themes:
- Providing Security
- Guaranteeing Stability
- Reconstruction and development.
In order to achieve that, we need to have a number of inquiries and questions, how would security prevail while the lands of minorities are still unliberated. Let as talk about the scenario after ISIS, especially that there’s a lot of discussions currently about liberating Nineveh province soon.
Another question, who is going to impose security. Is it the central or the regional government ??? or is there a need to have an international security guarantee.
· Does minorities continue to have trust in both governments and their security institutions, especially after being left alone to face the monstrosity of ISIS without any resistance to defend them ???
· How would it be possible to build trust and reconciliation? Is it possible to do this without compensating the victims and prosecuting those who killed, kidnapped, captivated, raped, destroyed religious monuments … etc? what is the legal description of the crimes committed by members of the Islamic State? Are we supposed to utilize international or national courts in order to seek justice? What type of challenges would we face?
· How is it possible to achieve conciliation when there is no system to guarantee justice and fairness for victims and to compensate them, and is the Iraqi justice system qualified to achieve this goal in light of having no national laws similar to crimes of genocide or crimes against humanity. How are we going to do justice to those whom were forced to change their religion in light of the Iraqi laws which does not criminalize (coercion to change religion) while the Court of Cassation described minors who return to their original religion after being forced into Islam as (apostates).
· Going to International courts is possible, but it is a long and a very difficult way to pass through despite the fact that resolutions to prosecute those who committed crimes described as acts of Genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes are available. ISIS committed acts of Genocide against the Yazidi and Christian community, in addition to crimes against humanity, war crimes and ethnic cleansing against other Iraqi minorities.
But the issue in this regards is that Iraq is not a member of the main system of Rome, and requires to form a specialized court which requires specific mechanisms by the security council and based on the demand of the Iraqi government, calling to form a specialized international court to prosecute the criminals of the Islamic State. Also there is another challenge we would face, punishments provided by these courts does not live up to the punishments provided by Iraqi courts, especially that the legal description of the crimes of ISIS is terrorism according to the Iraqi laws, thus they will be prosecuted according to the anti-terrorism law which could impose punishments such as execution.
In regards to the subject of the return of the IDPs
Is it possible for them to return, how, within a political conflict over the control of their disputed territories. And who is going to impose law and provide security, in light of the Kurdish ambition to add that territories to its lands in the region, and the Sunni Arab movement and their ambition to add it to a Sunni region which has been called for by the former governor of Mosul Mr. Atheel al-Nujaifi.
How can we achieve stability and what are the means for reconstruction and development?
What is required to compensate the victims and rehabilitate them? … have the assailants been prosecuted, is the Iraqi justice system qualified?
Is what happened to Yazidies or Christians considered as crimes of Genocide and crimes against humanity?
To provide answers to these questions, I would say:
· You cannot have stability before having an elaborate system to achieve justice, impose the rule of law and compensate the victims, but the most important question, is the Iraqi justice system qualified to do so in times when talks about corruption says it has reached the justice system as well. In my own opinion, I would say it cannot do so because I have not heard of any ISIS member who has been prosecuted because he conducted repressive practices against Yazidies, Christians and Shabaks in the Nineveh plain. Minorities have lost their trust in the national security institutions, and in order to restore this trust it must offer much efforts and sacrifices to achieve justice and fairness.
Today, you can hear loud cries demanding international guarantees, otherwise the number of people whom will choose to return would be nominal. while there is a high percentage of emigration among minorities. Only 5% percent of Yazidies of Sinjar have returned to Sinjar after the liberation.
Yes, what the Islamic State did to Yazidies, Christians and other minorities such as Shabak, Turkmen and Kaka’is lives up to the description of Genocide and crimes against humanity. because the majority of the elements of a Genocide crime can be found in the practices perpetrated against Yazidies and Christians, in addition to the elements of crimes against humanity which is seen against other minorities.
· What is needed:
There is an urgent need to provide financial protection in a coordinated and researched manner in order to protect the most endangered residents
Any efforts towards liberation and rehabilitation should be accompanied by providing real and effective protection to all components living in danger, which includes the Sunni component in areas occupied by the Islamic State. What Civil Society Organizations should do … it is efforts in the field of IDPs?
To prevent the repeat of mass atrocities, long term strategies must be organized. The response must focus on the threat presented by the Islamic State and other terrorist groups in order to prevent new atrocities against civilians and to protect them. This is also the case in Nineveh and the whole of Iraq.
The strategy, which must be adopted by the government, must be based on being keen not to repeat the atrocities, providing protection, investigating the committed crimes and addressing the roots and driving factors of this conflict. A continues evaluation of the capabilities of terrorist groups while monitoring its structural organization to have an idea of how dangerous it is. And any strategy must be accompanied by efforts to build trust between Sunni Arabs and communities of minorities and to strengthen these communities responsibility in building peace, providing humanitarian assistance and protection to IDPs who cannot go back after liberation, the necessity of following a style of voluntary return. Being keen to preserve the privacy of the displaced ones while respecting their religious, linguistic freedom and their freedom of speech.
Other than a monthly food parcel, what do IDPs living in camps need:
1. Increasing the number of bathrooms and toilets while increasing the amount of clean water.
2. Providing cleaning materials, sterilizers and soap to prevent the outbreak of epidemics and diseases, while visiting IDPs camps we found great need for sterilizers in general.
3. Providing fuel for heating, cooling and running electrical generators, putting into consideration that the majority of these families have no money to buy these materials.
4. Working on decreasing the numbers in overcrowded locations such as the rented houses for IDPs where each house could include up to 5 families sharing serviced due to the high cost of rent and the governments inability to undertake its duties and the continues delay in paying the monthly grant of 400 thousand IQD
5. Providing transportation to displaced children living in camps and complexes so they can attend schools.