September 22 2022
Eight years ago, some 400,000 Yazidis were captured, killed or forced to flee their ancestral homeland in Sinjar, northern Iraq, at the hands of ISIS. Many children’s lives were destroyed. It must not be forgotten.
The Yazidis are an ethnic and religious minority. In August 2014, ISIS attacks devastated the life of this community. The United Nations recognizes this event as genocide. Up to 3,000 women and girls have been kidnapped, raped and subjected to other forms of sexual violence. Many of them are still missing. Young boys were separated from their families and forcibly recruited by ISIS.
Eight years later, many Yazidi children are still displaced from their communities. Many live in unsafe environments surrounded by physical reminders of violence, including destroyed homes, schools and hospitals.
To understand the impact of the genocide on young children, Save the Children spoke to 33 aid workers and 117 children ages 7 to 17. Save the Children publishes the resulting research.
Children of all ages tell Save the Children about their fears and insecurity in their daily lives. Almost all adolescents indicated that they do not feel safe in their place of residence and are concerned about increased kidnappings, sexual violence, recruitment by armed groups and further loss of family or divorce.
Khaled*, a boy in the age group of 7-10, said, “Every day we see young children carrying weapons and working with armed groups. They are still young, under 18.”
Challenges: language barriers
Language barriers in particular are presented as a challenge these days. Some children have forgotten their mother tongue, Kurmanji, which is the language spoken by many Yazidis. Others were born into captivity and never learned the language. This makes it difficult to connect and connect with their families and reintegrate into their community.
The mental health effects of girls who survived sexual assault included post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and other serious physical and mental health effects.
The right to education
Yazidi children also told researchers that they would like to go to school, but after eight years, their right to education is still denied. Many schools have been bombed and parents are reluctant to send their children to other schools. “They are afraid that their children will be kidnapped,” said Susan*, who is in charge of the work.
lack of identifiers
Children often lost their identity during the genocide and young children are often not registered at birth. Without these documents, children will not be able to access essential services such as education and health care. Obtaining new documents can be expensive and complicated. Children born into families face greater challenges as proof of paternity is required in Iraq for registration. If this is not available, the child is registered as a Muslim. This makes him or her both legally and culturally non-Yazidi and another stigma.
Invitation to the international community
Save the Children calls on the international community to work with the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to create specialized services to help children reintegrate into their communities and invest in quality education and infrastructure. They must also take steps to ensure that Yazidi children receive justice and reparations for the serious crimes committed against them.
We call on the Iraqi government to ensure that all Yazidi children are provided with ID cards so that they can access basic needs and rights, such as education and health care. In addition, the government should change relevant laws so that mothers can register their children with appropriate identities.
Save the children in Iraq
Save the Children has been active in Sinjar, a place in Iraq, since 2017 to support returning families. We work with communities and partners on the ground to help people find work, rebuild community infrastructure and provide essential services such as healthcare and legal advice.
* The United Nations first concluded that ISIS’ treatment of the Yazidis was genocide in a 2016 report “They Came for Destruction: ISIS’s Crimes Against the Yazidis,” and this was submitted to the Human Rights Council, June 2016.