Yezidi Children's Safe Space

by Free Yezidi Foundation
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FYF Monthly Newsletter - October 2020

 

FYF mourns the loss of Baba Sheikh, the Yezidi religious leaderDear Friends,


This month Yezidis mourned the loss of the Yezidi religious leader and beloved head of the Yezidi Spiritual Council, Baba Sheikh Khurto Haji Ismail. Baba Sheikh was a forward-looking and transformative leader in the community in various ways. The Free Yezidi Foundation holds the late Baba Sheikh in the highest regard. See our statement here. FYF country leadership visited the final resting place of Baba Sheikh and paid a courtesy visit to his family and members of the Spiritual Council. He died at age 87 due to health complications.

 

FYF Statements on Convicted Female ISIS Members
 
FYF has been providing law enforcement agencies, governments, and the general public with information and reports regarding ISIS members, including female ISIS members. A number of female ISIS members or associates have sought to portray themselves as victims, despite their participation in a genocidal, mass-rape terrorist organization. FYF has noted that in many cases, the behavior of female ISIS members was even worse than men, and their crimes facilitated and ensured atrocities committed against Yezidis and others. FYF believes that justice for members of genocidal, terrorist organizations should not depend on gender but on the decisions and actions taken by individuals.

This month, Omaima Abdi of Hamburg, Germany was sentenced to prison on four criminal counts, including one count of owning a Yezidi 'slave'. When she tired of her life in the ISIS Caliphate, she returned home to Germany, and resumed her life as though nothing had happened. However, a journalist found her phone in Syria, which included evidence of her criminal behavior with ISIS. We are grateful to the German prosecutors for ensuring that she faced justice for her crimes. Here is our statement about Omaima Abdi (pictured below in court). To see the FYF statement on Omaima Abdi, click here.

In the Netherlands, Laura H was convicted in criminal court as an accomplice for the preparation of terrorist actions. Shockingly, she has developed a platform to write a book and a play about her life. The Free Yezidi Foundation strongly rejects the attempts of current of former ISIS members or accomplices to profit from their experience with a genocidal organization like ISIS. To see our full statement, click here.

Photo of Omaima Abdi in court, courtesy AFP

 

FYF Reacts to Iraq - KRG Agreement on Shingal (Sinjar)
 
FYF issued a number of initial observations and notes on the much-publicized agreement between the Iraq and KRG governments about the future of Shingal. To see the full thread, click here. FYF also worked with other Yezidi community leaders, intellectuals, and civil society organization to support a joint statement that both supported attention to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Sinjar while underscoring Yezidi concerns on some important elements of this process. As a non-governmental organization, FYF avoids political involvement, but maintains a clear voice in matters pertaining to human rights and the humanitarian needs of the Yezidi people. 

Separately, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has unfortunately raised tensions and already led to bloodshed. The Free Yezidi Foundation stands in solidarity with Yezidis in harm's way, including those who are fighting as part of the Armenian forces. We hope for a swift end to this conflict. Yezidis and Armenians have enjoyed close relations for centuries, and we wish our Yezidi and Armenian brothers and sisters safety during this difficult time.

 

FYF Harikara Model Selected by USAID As Promising Practice
 
USAID held a virtual Evidence Summit on Strategic Religious Engagement in early October. The Free Yezidi Foundation's Harikara model was selected by USAID and featured as a promising practice, as can be seen in the image below. The FYF Harikara constitute a group of Yezidi women who have formed a sort of community 'brigade' to provide basic care and psychological first aid to the Yezidi community in the aftermath of the religiously-motivated Yezidi Genocide in 2014. To find out more, click here.

 

FYF Present at Exhumation of 'Mother's Mass Grave' in Shingal (Sinjar)
 
A mass grave in Solagh, Sinjar was exhumed and marked in the presence of Yezidi leaders and civil society this month. This grave contained mostly older Yezidi women, who were killed instead of taken as 'slaves' by ISIS. It is now referred to as the mass grave of mothers. The Free Yezidi Foundation and other organizations and social and religious leaders were present to mark the exhumation and to show solidarity with those we have lost and the families of those who were killed. It is important for families to be able to bury loved ones, and for the crimes committed against the innocent to be fully investigated and perpetrators brought to justice.

 

From the Field: Fatima and the Sewing/Knitting Course
 
"Attending the sewing and knitting classes helped me a lot. Before I had no knowledge about these subjects, but now I am able to sew and knit things for myself and my daughters, which makes me feel very good. Attending classes kept me busy and therefore helped me to not overthink. I consider them self-care because even mentally and physically I feel better now. That's why I want to attend another course at the Free Yezidi Foundation Women's Center. I cannot thank the staff enough! They are giving support to all people by giving them the opportunity to attend these wonderful courses with those very good teachers." Fatima, 51 years old, attended classes from June - August 2020.

Unfortunately, because of COVID, FYF has had to reduce the total number of beneficiaries attending the center at a time. Space is limited and there is a long wait list. FYF does its best to provide chances to a large pool of potential beneficiaries in and out of camp, and is seeking another facility to help us meet the demands.

In the News
Al-Monitor | Yazidi Spiritual Leader Baba Sheikh Dies At 87 | The article quotes the FYF statement on the passing of Baba Sheikh

Rudaw | Tributes Paid to Yezidi Spiritual Leader Laid to Rest in Shekhan | The article quotes the FYF statement on the passing of Baba Sheikh

Ad.NL | IS-Slachtoffers Zijn Woedend Over Nederlands Toneelstuk Over Syriegangster Laura H | The article (in Dutch) highlights the FYF statement on the glorification and platform of convicted terror accomplice Laura H.

Ezidi24 | Conviction of ISIS Member Omaima Abdi in Germany | The article reproduces the FYF statement on the conviction of Omaima Abdi

Kurdistan-24 | Yezidi Group Infuriated by Dutch Play Allegedly Glorifying ISIS Convict | The article highlights the Free Yezidi Foundation complaints about the glorification of ISIS members or accomplices

Rudaw | German Woman Sentenced to Prison for ISIS Membership, Enslavement of Yezidi Girl | The article includes a quote from earlier FYF reports on the culpability of female ISIS members

MedyaNews | Repeating Old Mistakes in Sengal Won't Break the Chain | The article includes a reference to FYF's thread on the private nature of the details of the agreement

Kurdistan-24 | KRG and Baghdad Reach Administrative, Security Agreement on Sinjar | The article includes a quote from the Free Yezidi Foundation about the Shingal agreement

Rudaw | Erbil-Baghdad Deal on Shingal Will Recruit Locals into Security Forces: Spokesperson | The article includes a quote from the Free Yezidi Foundation about the Shingal agreement
 

Thank you, friends, for your continued solidarity with the Free Yezidi Foundation and the Yezidi people.

Sincerely,


Pari Ibrahim
Executive Director
Free Yezidi Foundation

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FYF Monthly Newsletter - September 2020

FYF Women's Center Graduation was held on 1 September 2020

 

Dear Friends,


The month of September has brought forth a number of grave challenges, as well as some successes and opportunities. You can find out more from the activities and news items below.

FYF Holds Women's Center Graduation
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down progress in many of our programs, just like the rest of the world. Nonetheless, by reducing our numbers, ensuring social distancing, and enacting a prevention policy to include masks and enhanced facility maintenance, nearly 100 women and girls were able to graduate and earn their certificates from our program. Congratulations to our graduates, and welcome to our new cohort!
 
Trauma and Suicide Threaten Yezidi Community
 
Unfortunately, a number of Yezidis committed suicide over the past month. This includes several youth and an older woman who self-immolated in the IDP camp where FYF operates. Trauma is an often unseen danger that threatens the well-being of every segment of the Yezidi population. FYF has publicly and privately urged a number of governments and foreign aid organizations to focus on smart, practical programs to help provide MHPSS care and trauma treatment to the Yezidi people. We believe this is just as important as physical infrastructure development and the delivery of basic services. We mourn those we have lost and continue to support the FYF Harikara (helpers) as they conduct tent by tent visits to provide basic coping and self-care skills and refer difficult cases to our psychologists. The FYF Harikara are pictured below.

 

FYF Wraps up Combatting GBV Pilot Project in Sheikhan
 
FYF has been providing support services to victims of gender based violence and gender discrimination over the last months in the town of Sheikhan. This is part of an ambitious pilot project to scale up services and resources for Yezidi women and girls, and FYF is very proud to have played a role in this effort. FYF worked on this pilot with MSI, the implementing lead, and it was funded by USAID through its Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response. This pilot project will come to a close in September. Implementing this sensitive project during the COVID pandemic brought about some challenges and delays, as would be expected.

Through this effort, FYF received a significant demand for such services, at times overwhelming our staff capacity. The pilot project identified a very real need in this area as well as some valuable lessons learned for the future. As a result, FYF will continue operating its base of operations in Sheikhan, and we will retain a number of key staff members so that we can complete current cases and offer services through our social workers and advocates. FYF is enormously grateful to those aid and humanitarian agencies and individuals who attach importance to the rights of women and girls everywhere, including in the Yezidi community. As a Yezidi-women-led organization, FYF prioritizes gender equality and women's rights. We were very pleased with the positive response from many in our community, including social and religious leaders, in support of this effort to help modernize and improve Yezidi society. FYF looks forward to building upon the findings and the progress in this pilot project through future efforts in Sheikhan and beyond.

FYF office in Sheikhan, a base for providing support services to GBV and gender discrimination victims

 

FYF Conducts Periodic Fumigation of Facilities
 
FYF has been strict in adhering to COVID prevention guidelines for humanitarian settings. In addition to mandating masks and social distancing, FYF conducts periodic fumigation efforts to ensure that facilities are kept clean. In the IDP camp setting, this is critical, as COVID spread is much more difficult to combat and social distancing more difficult to enforce.

 

FYF Distributes Aid Packages to Vulnerable Families
 
In September, FYF provided 300 aid packages to a number of in and out of camp residents in greatest need, including survivors. The packages contained food items, hygiene and cleaning supplies, masks that were sewn by the FYF sewing team, and WHO flyers providing information on preventing the spread of COVID. FYF appreciates the support from the Austrian state of Land Tyrol for funding this and other FYF humanitarian supply deliveries.

FYF's annual report for 2019 is now available online.
Please click the link here if you wish to view our 2019 report.


 

Thank you, friends, for your continued solidarity with the Free Yezidi Foundation and the Yezidi people.

Sincerely,


Pari Ibrahim
Executive Director
Free Yezidi Foundation

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FYF Virtual Commemoration of Yezidi Genocide - 3 August 2020

 


Free Yezidi Foundation Commemoration of the Yezidi Genocide
 
The Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF) invites you to join us as we commemorate six years since the Yezidi Genocide. We will be holding a virtual event with local and international experts from various UN, governmental, and non-governmental actors. Our goal is to bring together experts on a wide range of subjects to foster meaningful conversations on the plight of Yezidis and efforts toward recovery and a brighter future. Confirmed speakers include United Nations representatives, diplomats, academics, and field experts.
 
Six 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 perpetrated by ISIS are remembered by the international community, as Yezidis continue to pursue meaningful action. August 3rd is a day of sorrow for the Yezidi people, especially survivors. At this time of the year, we ask our friends and allies to come together to discuss the genocide and its effect on Yezidis.
 
The commemoration will be broadcast on Monday, 3 August 2020:
 
8am – 2pm EST (New York)
1pm – 7pm GMT (United Kingdom)
2pm – 8pm CET (Central Europe)
3pm – 9pm Iraq
 
Please save the date for this important event. More details will be forthcoming with instructions on how to view the panels.
 
We hope that you can join us and show your support. On behalf of the FYF team, thank you for your dedication to the rights and welfare of Yezidis. 
 
Sincerely,
 
 
The Free Yezidi Foundation

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FYF Monthly Newsletter - June 2020Danger to Yezidis and Religious Minorities Escalates in Syria
 
Over the last two years, Turkey and Turkish-supported militias have committed countless violations in Afrin and in North East Syria. This has included wholescale demographic change and ethnic cleansing, looting, and destruction of houses of worship, with particular danger faced by religious minorities like Yezidis, Christians, and others. In the last months, several Yezidi women have been kidnapped. Turkey and Turkish-backed extremist forces, including former ISIS members, took control of Afrin in 2018 and parts of North East Syria in 2019. The Free Yezidi Foundation issued a stark warning in early 2019 of the calamitous impact that these invasions would have on the existence of religious minorities in the area.
 
Voices from the Field
 
FYF’s trauma team has been working to provide our beneficiaries with remote services during the current COVID-19 crisis. In this segment of “voices from the field,” we hear directly from our trauma team in the field about what it is like working with survivors in the displaced Yezidi community during the pandemic.
 
"During COVID-19 the suicidality we encounter within the Yezidi population has increased sharply. A main reason is frustration due to challenges by the prolonged stay in the camps, lack of employment, poverty, and hopelessness for the future. As a result there is an increased demand for trauma treatment.

The weeks of working remotely with our beneficiaries and team members proved to be challenging as the electricity and internet connection were not always stable. In addition, most of our beneficiaries did not have internet at all, so we had to work by telephone. Although we were grateful that we were able to support our beneficiaries during the lockdown, especially those suffering from severe trauma, we found telephone sessions challenging because we were not able to see their faces or make direct eye contact.
 
With the gradual relaxing of the restrictions, we were finally able to return to the Women’s Center and begin seeing our beneficiaries and team members in person. It felt great to be able to meet them face-to-face after so many weeks of working remotely.
 
Now the whole trauma team is back working at the center and in the field, though in a reduced capacity. As this pandemic appears to be with us for the foreseeable future, we are taking all the necessary precautions to keep ourselves and our beneficiaries safe by following physical distancing and prevention guidelines."
 
- The FYF Trauma Team

FYF staff providing beneficiaries with language courses at a reduced capacity. 

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FYF May Newsletter

Children in Khanke IDP camp celebrate the Yezidi New Year.

Dear Friends,
 
In April, Yezidis around the world celebrated the Yezidi New Year, despite the global challenges we all face. During this difficult time, FYF remains steadfast in our commitment to providing aid and support to Yezidis in need.

FYF’s COVID-19 Response

FYF continues to deliver protective equipment to essential frontline workers and IDPs living in and around Khanke IDP camp. Now more than ever, displaced Yezidi communities need accurate information and health guidance. FYF distributed hygiene kits and WHO recommendation flyers to more than 600 families, including single women and widows. Our hygiene kits consist of hygienic pads for women, antibacterial products, wet wipes, shampoo, and a COVID-19 awareness brochure. In addition, our team in Khanke began manufacturing and distributing protective masks to camp residents and essential personnel such as medical staff, doctors, checkpoint officials, government officials, and camp managers. We are working to increase our production in the coming weeks to meet the needs of vulnerable Yezidis in the region.

Looking Back

FYF’s justice project and trauma program continue to operate virtually. Our legal team has been working to identify and interview survivors of ISIS crimes. Our team conducted remote information sessions and has analyzed information on potential cases. Justice and accountability for atrocities against Yezidis, including gender-based crimes, remains an important aspect of FYF’s work. Even in times of crisis, we must not allow perpetrators to escape with impunity.

After health authorities issued a decision to prevent public gatherings, the FYF trauma team began using social media to support our beneficiaries through videos about mental health in quarantine and COVID-19 prevention. Our team conducted individual psychological assessments and therapy sessions virtually. FYF psychologists also completed remote training and support sessions for our field staff.

FYF distributing dignity kits to IDP camp residents.

Justice for genocide: Yazidis hopeful as Islamic State trial opens in Germany | Pari Ibrahim, FYF's Executive Director, was quoted in an Al-Monitor article highlighting the trial of Taha Al-J in Frankfurt, Germany. According to the indictment, the suspect purchased and enslaved a Yezidi woman and her 5-year-old daughter. The suspected ISIS militant is being accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

15-year-old Yezidi genocide survivor killed in Germany | Pari was also quoted in a Kurdistan 24 article about Arkan Hussein Kjo, a survivor of the Yezidi genocide, who was killed in Germany. “Although the specific motives behind the attack are not yet known, it is nevertheless a sad event to see a Yezidi survivor suffer. Our thoughts are with the family of the victim and we hope that justice will be served.”
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Organization Information

Free Yezidi Foundation

Location: Duhok, NA - Iraq
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @free_yezidi
Project Leader:
Pari Ibrahim
Duhok, Kurdistan Region Iraq
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