To our friends, supporters, activists, the media, international and national political decision makers, and to the Yazidi people:
The following lines are a cry for help. We are asking you to support the survivors of the Yazidi genocide; they have been abused, tortured, sold as slaves, and now those who have survived are now living in unbearable misery.
In recent weeks, there have been multiple news media reports, and questions about the fate of the Yazidi girls and women who were abducted by IS. What has become of the women and children, who were raped and impregnated by these self-proclaimed warriors of God? There are currently around 200 women who have been freed and they are in a desperate situation, facing impossible choices. If they want to return to their families, they must give up their children at the border. Worse still, many of these children end up in orphanages or other institutions, paying the price of the Islamic State’s crimes.
Women want to go back
Everyone can understand that these women need serious, long-term support for medical, psychological and social help. These women just want to go back to their families, and to be part of Yazidi society. But even this door is closed. Their families don’t want them back; the stigma of rape isolates them from everyone. Their children, born of rape, will always be seen as IS fighters by the Yazidi community; a community that was brutally murdered by the IS. But those children were often the only happy point, the only thing keeping those women alive through their continued years of sex-slavery and abuse by IS. Accusing the Yazidis of being ruthless, misses the complexity of the issue and pain that everyone is suffering.
How can this be happening? After all, we were all happy that these girls and women were liberated and media showed them being received by their society with open arms. Even their leaders, the Mir, the secular leader, as well as the religious leader Baba Sheik and the entire Holy Council welcomed them. So why are we here now? Why are these women being forced to make the impossibly cruel choice to abandon their children?
Laws need to be changed
Because under Iraqi law, these children are considered Muslims and not Yazidis. And the Central Government in Baghdad, as well as the Kurdish Regional Government in Erbil, demand that these children be handed over to the relatives of the fathers, in this case members of the IS. For those women who vehemently fight to keep their children, “Muslim” will be stamped into their passports. This de facto means being excluded from the closed society of the Yazidis.
These laws governing birth and religion need to be changed, and although the Iraqi President recently submitted a bill to parliament calling for full legal and humanitarian support for these women and their children, children are still being removed from their mother’s care under the current law.
These Yazidi women are being re-victimized. Each Yazidi mother should be able to decide what happens to their children. If they choose to keep them, that is their right, if they want to give them away, because of the horror from which that child was born, is too difficult to bear, that is also their right. These women are facing only difficult choices, but they need to be supported through this horrific time. We need to help them, give them a chance to build a life.
If nothing is done, a second generation will inherit IS violence, not in an abstract way, but through daily interactions. In other countries where rape has been used as a weapon, such as in Bangladesh, the descendants still suffer from this unprocessed past.
Enabling a future
That’s why it’s time to give them a future. A first step was taken in 2018 by the state of Brandenburg, which declared its willingness to grant admission and support to this group of people. In Berlin and Bremen, too, this step is being intensively considered and Baden Württemberg, under the overall medical direction of Professor Ilhan Kizilhan has already protected 1,100 Yazidis. In the Iraqi homeland, there should be a sanctuary for these women, where they can make calm decisions. Wadi e.V. can provide this sanctuary immediately if given support. We have teams -who are Yazidis themselves- working tirelessly for years with Yazidi survivors.
We, the initial signatories of this call, therefore urge the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi Parliament to urgently accept and ratify the parts of President Barham Saleh’s bill that are aiming to grant the Yazidi women and children their full rights. After this decision, the law must be implemented immediately and, of course, Yazidi expertise must be obtained in the implementation.
From Baghdad and Erbil we expect the rights of the Yazidi minority to be fully recognized without any restriction. In particular, former IS prisoners must be allowed to procure new passports at no cost. On entry, the former IS prisoners or their children should not be listed as Muslims in their papers. Both governments should campaign for admission programs of this group of persons for medical and psychological care in Germany and other Western countries and not take part in the selection of persons. This selection is to be made solely by psychological professionals.
The German Federal Government, as one of the largest donors to the Reconstruction must also coordinate its aid purposefully and, in addition, demand the minority rights of all, especially the Yazidis, and use all existing relationships to help the victims targeted, streamlining bureaucratic processes.
Furthermore, we ask the German Federal Government to allow efforts by the states to take further special shots, to support with all their strength and to provide assistance wherever necessary and possible, to allow the families of past and future special shots of the countries the later reunification of the family without great bureaucratic hurdles. Finally recognize the genocide of the Yazidis and therefore refrain from further deportations.
Finally, the Yazidi leaders must also be prepared, with this support, to give these women a future as well.
Prof. Dr. Dr. Jan Ilhan Kizilhan
Thomas von der Osten-Sacken
About the sigantories:
Prof. Dr. Dr. Jan Ilhan Kizilhan is Director of the Institute for Transcultural Health Science, DHBW and Dean of the Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychotraumatology of the University of Duhok. He co-directed the special program of helping vulnerable women and children from Iraq of the German State of Baden-Wuerttemberg. (Contact: Tel +49 7720 3906 235; Email email@example.com )
Holger Geisler is a former Journalist and Editor der oft he Yazidi Magazine “Lalis Dialog”. Until 2017 he worked as spokesperson of the “Zentralrat der Yeziden in Germany (ZYD)”. He initiated the special program for Yazidi Women in Baden-Wuerttemberg and is consulting German Polititicans. (Contact: Tel +49 172 7310434; Email firstname.lastname@example.org )
Thomas von der Osten-Sacken is CEO of the NGO Wadi e. V. that is working in Iraq for more than 25 years. Since 2014 Wadi has given assistance and support to Yazidu women and other victims of the Islamic State. (Contact: Tel +49 151 56906002; Email email@example.com )