August 1, 2017

KRG US Representation and United States Institute of Peace host event to discuss genocide by ISIS and the way forward for minorities in Iraq

Washington, DC, USA (us.gov.krd) – ‘It’s our shared responsibility to make coordinated efforts to pursue justice and accountability, launch reconciliation process, secure stability, provide economic opportunities and encourage peaceful coexistence,’ said KRG Representative to the United States Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman at the United States Institute of Peace during an event ‘Stabilizing Iraq: What Is the Future for Minorities?’. The event was convened to mark the third anniversary of the ISIS genocide of Yezidis, Christians, and other groups by ISIS, and to discuss the way forward for justice, reconstruction, and stability in liberated areas and in Iraq in general.

More than 200 US officials, Congressional staffers, journalists, and experts joined the event, which was cohosted by the KRG Representation in the United States. Fareed Yasseen, Iraqi Ambassador to the United States, also gave remarks. Following remarks by the two diplomats, Naomi Kikoler, Deputy Director, Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, moderated a panel consisting of: Vian Dakhil, Member, Council of Representatives of the Republic of Iraq; Knox Thames, Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia at the Department of State; William Warda, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Alliance of Iraqi Minorities; and Sarhang Hamasaeed, Director of Middle East Programs at USIP.

Ambassador Yasseen said that the genocide of the Yezidis is ‘the worst thing that has happened in the 21st century so far, and I hope it will be the last such event of its nature. And this is a sad thing because Iraq is a place of minorities.’

Representative Abdul Rahman highlighted a number of ways in which KRG has supported minorities and the victims of ISIS genocide. Among them, she mentioned the KRG Prime Minister and KRG security forces role in helping to rescue 3,092 Yezidis, adding that 3,325 still remain in captivity, as well as the Peshmerga’s role in liberating thousands of square kilometers from ISIS. She remarked about the rape rehabilitation center in Duhok, the first of its kind in Iraq, which provides medical, psychological, and social support to victims of rape and the laws passed by Parliament to protect rights of people of different backgrounds.

The Representative also made calls for a number of measures in Iraq and in Kurdistan, including security, stabilization and reconstruction that includes economic opportunities and development; legislation to bring about equal citizenship; greater systems of local autonomy; the growing, training, and equipping of the Peshmerga and security forces; and reforming the education system to teach tolerance of other religions, a process which has already begun in Kurdistan.

Representative Abdul Rahman said, ‘No one can deny the fact that trust, if there was any, is completely broken among the communities that used to live together in Shingal and Nineveh plain prior to the ISIS onslaught.’

She added, ‘The task in hand is very difficult. The wounds are very deep and very fresh. It’s immensely painful to be betrayed by your neighbor, to have your beloved ones being raped, massacred, and enslaved. Reconciliation and peaceful coexistence among different groups in Shingal and Nineveh plain even if possible; will be a very long and deep process.’

During the panel discussion, Naomi Kikoler opened the panel by recalling the events of 2014 that led to Yezidis, Christians, and others fleeing the the genocide. She said, ‘Those communities should have never have had to flee. We’re here because of a failure collective international failure to protect them. We’re here because that failure started not when the Islamic State arose, it started decades before.’

Vian Dakhil, speaking in Kurdish through a translator, said that Yezidis need the international community to recognize the Yezidi Genocide and desperately need destroyed Yezidi villages to be reconstructed.

Knox Thames highlighted the need for justice and reconstruction. He said, ‘We need to rebuild structures and relationships of communities, and hold perpetrators of atrocities accountable.’

Sarhang Hamasaeed urged the international community to see reconciliation between communities as a practical step toward stability, saying that ‘relationships in communities help to prevent violence’. He also said that reconciliation should start from the grassroots – he said that we need to ask communities, ‘what they see as a source of conflict in the future and what reconciliation means to them.’

Watch a video of the event here.
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