FYF executive director Pari Ibrahim was invited by the Permanent Mission of Spain to the United Nations in New York to participate in a closed-door Security Council meeting today, 21 October. Below is the text of her speech.
Speech by Ms. Pari Ibrahim
Founder and Executive Director, Free Yezidi Foundation
United Nations Security Council
New York, 21 October 2015
Foreign Minister Garcia-Margallo,
Interior Minister Fernandez Diaz,
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
I would like to begin by applauding the Spanish Mission for spearheading this important meeting, and I thank the Mission for inviting me to participate today. I wish Spain the best of luck for the remainder of its Presidency of the Security Council.
I am Pari Ibrahim, Founder and Executive Director of the Free Yezidi Foundation. Our Foundation is designed to assist Yezidi civilians worst affected by the ISIS attacks.
As many of you know, in August last year ISIS terrorists began a campaign of torture, kidnapping, rape, murder, and mass execution in a clearly documented effort to exterminate the Yezidis. I am sure everyone in this room acknowledges the absolute failure of this body, the Security Council, to uphold international peace and security regarding these and other horrors visited upon many peoples in Iraq and Syria, but particularly atrocities committed against religious minorities.
More than 400,000 Yezidis now live in IDP camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Some children saw the men of their family executed before their own eyes. Thousands of women and girls, as young as six years old, were kidnapped by the terrorists. They suffered sexual abuse beyond description, and more than three thousand are still held by ISIS terrorists. I mention this specifically because of the recent review of Resolution 1325 and the inability of the international community to prevent horrific crimes against women and girls in this conflict. We cannot go back in time, and these crimes cannot be undone. But there is much we can do to help survivors recover, and there is much we can do to pursue justice.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It has been said that genocide is a problem from Hell. As ISIS terrorists announced, planned, publicized, and systematically carried out genocide against our people, many Yezidis now believe that a share of this problem from Hell lies in the failure of international mechanisms and the failure of this body, the Security Council, to carry out its basic and most fundamental duties. Playing politics should not be a barrier to action in cases of atrocities.
If the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing, we must begin with the good men and women in this room. And with all due respect, today I point to every member of this Council and I condemn your failure to prevent this genocide, while recognizing the many lives saved by American airstrikes around Mount Sinjar. I condemn your subsequent inability to identify and prosecute the war criminals responsible for this coordinated and widely publicized genocide against our people.
It is clear that the crises in Syria and Iraq are very complex, and there are geopolitical, military, economic, and legal concerns for all actors involved. Speaking frankly, everyone can understand why this makes action in the Security Council quite difficult. But the attacks against the Yezidis are not complex at all. This was genocide, judging from the statements and actions of perpetrators themselves, including the worst atrocities imaginable. It is a disgrace that, even with evidence available to the public and to every member state, this body still has not even done the bare minimum for our survivors.
And the bare minimum is this: the Security Council should refer the genocide against the Yezidis to the International Criminal Court at once. The lack of action from the Council is a failure, and I cannot apologize for stating this frankly, because there is no other way to put it.
But in light of this inaction, the Free Yezidi Foundation has partnered with Yazda, another Yezidi-led organization, to submit a comprehensive report on the influential and operational role of foreign fighters of ISIS – particularly foreign fighters who are nationals of ICC member states. I am holding the redacted version of this report in my hand, and this report clearly demonstrates that ICC member state nationals have been involved in the planning, execution, and subsequent rapes and abuses committed against Yezidi civilians at low, mid, and top levels of the ISIS hierarchy, from planning to action. This document is now before the ICC Chief Prosecutor, and a preliminary examination should be opened on the basis of this report and the legal merits of personal jurisdiction, as clearly stipulated by the Rome Statute. But this should not even be necessary – the Security Council should instruct the ICC to commence a full investigation immediately, as the perpetrators clearly announced their genocidal intentions from the very beginning and documented their actions.
The role of the Security Council is critical to our people, but so too is the role of member states. We hope that member states will share intelligence and background information with the ICC about ISIS foreign fighters that came from their countries to Iraq and Syria and are committing murders and rapes with seeming impunity.
Separately, I hope donor countries and those concerned with this situation will help the Yezidi community to rebuild from the ground up. Support and emergency assistance from UN agencies and international NGOs are important. We need this help. But at the same time, Yezidis do not seek dependency. As the founder of a Yezidi-led NGO, I am at time disheartened as I see the millions of dollars lost in the bureaucracy and overhead costs of enormous charity organisations, while we struggle to collect enough funding to implement our targeted, modest projects on the ground. I know other Yezidi-led organisations have the same problem.
The Free Yezidi Foundation is establishing children’s centers and women’s centers within the camps to demonstrate a Yezidi-led effort to provide support to our community. We hire skilled IDPs from within the camp, exclusively. And we bring post-trauma experts from abroad to train local practitioners, who can then assist those in the camps who most need help. This is community building from the ground up. These services are important for the entire IDP community, but especially for women and girls, as they have been directly targeted.
In this regard, I would like to applaud the efforts from the United Kingdom to underscore the horrors of sexual violence in conflict and look into measures to prevent such atrocities and assist survivors. I would like to thank the British Prime Minister’s representative on this matter, Baroness Anelay, who invited me to New York to participate in a panel during the GA week. Removed from the violence, this may be a policy issue that is somewhat theoretical, but on the ground, for Yezidi survivors, this is very much a practical reality requiring urgent attention. For example, 19 girls from my own family were taken by ISIS terrorists, and only two have managed to escape. Those who return are severely traumatized. Our survivors need help to recover and our community needs assistance to rehabilitate itself.
We understand that the situation in Iraq and Syria is grave and extremely complex. But I must emphasize that the plight of the Yezidi people is not complicated. There is no confusion between perpetrator and victim. The terrorists have no allies in this room today. In this case, taking action is not difficult politically, legally, or militarily. The international community should take the following actions:
- Firstly, The Security Council should refer the ISIS genocide against the Yezidis in Sinjar to the ICC at once. The Security Council and the ICC must take action to identify and pursue perpetrators. Impunity is salt in the wound for victims and demonstrates a tacit international acceptance of atrocities; while legal action, arrests and trials bring forth at least some sense of justice and international solidarity with the victimized population.
- Secondly, the international community must immediately mobilize efforts to bring humanitarian relief to survivors, optimally through Yezidi-led organisations that help the community rebuild from the ground up.
- Thirdly, The Security Council must consider the best course of action to ensure protection so that the fragile Yezidi minority can survive and our people can live in peace in the future.
We do not seek any favors or assistance beyond that which is explicitly mandated in the UN Charter and the Rome Statute. We simply call upon the Security Council and the ICC to fulfill their duties, precisely as outlined in these founding documents. We do not call for violence or revenge – we call for justice and for the security of our people, and we will accept no less.
Thank you very much.