The Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF) will hold a series of virtual panels on 2-3 August 2021 to mark seven years since the Yezidi Genocide perpetrated by ISIS (Daesh). The virtual panels will include Yezidi and international experts as well as representatives from the United Nations, foreign governments, and non-governmental organizations.
This two-day event will feature speakers on a wide range of subjects to foster meaningful conversations on the plight of Yezidis and efforts toward recovery, justice, and a brighter future for the community.
Seven years ago, ISIS militants swept through Sinjar and surrounding towns and conducted a deliberate attempt to annihilate the Yezidi people. It is important that the atrocities, sexual violence, and genocide are remembered by the international community as Yezidis continue to pursue meaningful action. August 3rd is a day of sorrow. At this time of the year, we ask friends and allies to come together to discuss the genocide and its effect on the community.
The commemoration will be broadcast on 2-3 August.
Monday, 2 August 2021:
7:50am – 2:15pm EST (New York)
12:50pm – 7:15pm GMT (United Kingdom)
1:50pm – 8:15pm CET (Central European Time)
2:50pm – 9:15pm Iraq
Tuesday, 3 August 2021:
7:50am – 3:30pm EST (New York)
12:50pm – 8:30pm GMT (United Kingdom)
1:50pm – 9:30pm CET (Central European Time)
2:50pm – 10:30pm Iraq
Day One: 2 August 2021
PANEL 1: Voices from the Field (8am EST | 1pm UK | 2pm CET | 3pm Iraq)
The two-day virtual event will open with five Yezidis speaking from an IDP camp in Iraq. Each speaker, including Yezidi men and women of different ages and perspectives, will reflect on their experiences in August 2014, the impact the Yezidi Genocide has had on their own lives and the community, and share their hopes and fears for the future. The panel will be in Kurmanji or Arabic with consecutive, live interpretation to English.
PANEL 2: Yezidi Survivors’ Law: Implementation & Challenges (9am EST | 2pm UK | 3pm CET | 4pm Iraq)
In March this year, the Iraqi Parliament passed the Yezidi Female Survivors’ Law, designed to provide reparations and redress to a number of constituencies, including Yezidis and other minorities, women as well as children, and male and female survivors of mass executions. Notably, the Law focuses attention on ISIS crimes of sexual violence, which have not been prosecuted successfully in Iraq or abroad some seven years later. The Law demands a system of implementation and governmental entities to provide compensation for survivors. This panel will discuss elements of the Law and how stakeholders can help ensure just and realistic implementation, as well as obstacles that must be overcome.
PANEL 3: Yezidis: The Next Generation (10am EST | 3pm UK | 4pm CET | 5pm Iraq)
The destruction of Sinjar and the flight of hundreds of thousands of Yezidis to IDP camps or as refugees to Europe has had an enormous impact on the community. This panel focuses on Yezidi youth and what the future holds for the next generation. This is a platform for young Yezidi activists, students, and professionals to share their thoughts on the Yezidi Genocide, challenges they currently face, pressing needs for the next generation, and how both Yezidi society and the international community can help the next Yezidi generation.
PANEL 4: The Hardan Massacre (11am EST | 4pm UK | 5pm CET | 6pm Iraq)
The massacre and mass enslavement in the village of Hardan constituted one of the worst ISIS attacks in the Yezidi Genocide. The Free Yezidi Foundation conducted targeted research to understand the events leading up to and during ISIS’ occupation of Hardan, identifying many persons of interest. This information has been shared with UN mechanisms and some national prosecutors. While the underlying evidence and summary findings cannot be publicly shared due to confidentiality and consent stipulations, this panel will allow Hardan residents and FYF lawyers and psychologists to draw attention to the atrocities committed north of Mount Sinjar. Panelists will also discuss the urgent need for legally admissible documentation, mass grave exhumation, pressing challenges for livelihood and psychological support, and the dignified, voluntary return of civilians to their areas of origin.
PANEL 5: Combating Yezidi Discrimination: Employment, Education, & Training (12pm EST | 5pm UK | 6pm CET | 7pm Iraq)
The Yezidi Genocide was perpetrated by ISIS but was made possible by a number of antecedent causes, such as discrimination and hatred against Yezidis. Many such root causes remain in Iraq today. Yezidis can point to instances of discrimination and racism that have affected their lives. Economic, social, and educational marginalization have had a deleterious impact on the Yezidi community. This panel will bring together Yezidi activists, foreign government and aid representatives, and independent analysts to consider the problems of religious discrimination and the solutions for a vulnerable community through employment, education, and training opportunities. Any commitment to Yezidi recovery must include reference to equal opportunity for growth and development. The intersection of discrimination, security concerns, and livelihood opportunities for religious minorities is a critical aspect for humanitarian aid, and addressing these matters is essential for Yezidi families to have any realistic future in Iraq.
PANEL 6: The Future of Sinjar: Challenges & Opportunities (1pm EST | 6pm UK | 7pm CET | 8pm Iraq)
Despite modest progress in reconstruction and development, Yezidi families face significant obstacles in returning to their areas of origin in Sinjar and surrounding villages. The Sinjar Agreement between Baghdad and Erbil, made with virtually no Yezidi consultation or involvement, would ostensibly facilitate safe, orderly, voluntary return of Sinjar’s residents. Yet the lack of security, housing, infrastructure, and basic service remain, and the agreement may also lead to a number of serious conflicts. Meanwhile, most Yezidi IDPs have not chosen to return, although some have done so over the course of the last year. Yezidi and international experts and stakeholders will discuss where opportunities for progress exist, which challenges must be overcome, and assess the realistic prospects of safety and stability in Sinjar in the near future.
Day Two: 3 August 2021
PANEL 7: Yezidi Genocide: The European Perspective (8am EST | 1pm UK | 2pm CET | 3pm Iraq)
Yezidis from the diaspora and from Iraq look to European centers of power for support in response to the atrocities committed against the community. This begins with recognition of the Yezidi Genocide, as well as assistance in recovery and rebuilding and the pursuit of justice and accountability. This panel discussion will include Members of Parliament from European countries. Recognition of the Yezidi Genocide is a necessary milestone that marks essential first steps for recovery and justice. Now that both Belgium and the Netherlands have recognized the Yezidi Genocide, there is hope that other parliaments in Europe and beyond will also follow this example.
PANEL 8: Justice & Accountability (9:30am EST | 2:30pm UK | 3:30pm CET | 4:30pm Iraq)
August 2014 marked the beginning of the Yezidi Genocide perpetrated by ISIS, including unimaginable atrocities against Yezidi women, men and children. The horrors perpetrated – which include murder, rape, sexual enslavement, forced labor, and recruitment and use of children in hostilities – constitute genocide and crimes against humanity. Justice and accountability are essential for the Yezidi community to heal through recognition of harm and the punishment of those responsible; to create an incontrovertible historical record; and to act as a bulwark against recurrence. This year, UNITAD announced its determination that these crimes do constitute genocide, and in the last months the Belgium and Netherlands Parliaments have passed recognition resolutions. Yezidis are grateful to those individuals and officials who work hard to collect evidence and hold accountable those who have committed such crimes. This panel will host global stakeholders in the fight for justice and accountability in the aftermath of the Yezidi genocide.
PANEL 9: Slavery, Gender, & Sexual Violence (11am EST | 4pm UK | 5pm CET | 6pm Iraq)
The Yezidi Genocide sadly included a number of highly gendered and especially brutal crimes. When ISIS abducted Yezidi women, elderly women were executed. Other women and girls were sorted and selected like animals, trafficked through a highly organized slavery system that included court documents certifying ‘ownership’, and subjected to horrific sexual violence, in some cases for many years. Even today thousands of Yezidis, mostly women, remain unaccounted for and missing. Panelists will discuss the legal and psychological impact of slavery, crimes of sexual violence in the context of a mass atrocity like the Yezidi Genocide, and how to best legally address these crimes.
PANEL 10: Yezidi Genocide: The American Perspective (12:30pm EST | 5:30pm UK | 6:30pm CET | 7:30pm Iraq)
The unique role of the United States in Iraq cannot be overstated. In the most difficult days in August 2014, when thousands of Yezidis were stranded on Mount Sinjar, it was the United States that took decisive military action to help save a vulnerable and desperate Yezidi population. Since that time, the Yezidi community has been keenly aware of the actions and decisions of the United States in a number of important areas, including security, recovery and reconstruction, justice and accountability, development, economic opportunity, and the future of Sinjar. The United States’ diplomatic, military, and humanitarian decisions have enormous consequences for the Yezidi community. This panel will provide an opportunity for American officials to articulate solidarity with a still-vulnerable Yezidi population, discuss the various ways in which the United States supports Yezidi recovery in the aftermath of genocide, and reflect on the progress made in the last years and obstacles that remain.
PANEL 11: Genocide, Recovery, & Support (2pm EST | 7pm UK | 8pm CET | 9pm Iraq)
This concluding high-level panel will provide a platform for some of the world’s leading voices on women’s rights, genocide prevention, and combating atrocities. Solidarity with the surviving community is of great symbolic importance at this time. But substantive discussion on paths toward recovery, lessons from other contexts, recovery and prevention of future atrocities, and analysis of the role of women in the post-conflict setting can help foster ideas and actions for the Yezidi community and international and domestic stakeholders active in the field. Genocide, the crime of crimes, cannot go unpunished. Equally, the welfare and humanitarian recovery of the affected community must be considered carefully in the aftermath, and should be based on best practices, smart allocation of resources, and guided by experienced practitioners.