Each year, Çarsema Serê Salê - or the Yezidi New Year - brings the promise of rebirth, hope, and life to the Yezidi people.
On the heels of such a trying year, we are particularly grateful for the opportunity to celebrate the joy that the Yezidi New Year represents with you. While our celebrations may be smaller and more socially distant than in years past, we welcome Çarsema Serê Salê and the opportunity to begin anew that it represents.
The Yezidi community still faces many challenges - more than six years of displacement, a burgeoning mental health crisis, particularly among younger community members, absence of justice, and the daily struggle to make ends meet. However, we are hopeful that the coming year will bring more opportunities for healing and rebuilding in the Yezidi community.
We wish Yezidis and our supporters happiness, health, and safety in the year to come. Happy New Year, and thank you for your solidarity with Yezidis and the Free Yezidi Foundation.
We hope this finds you and your families safe and healthy. March was a busy month for the Yezidi community and for FYF. Groundbreaking legislation passed the Iraqi parliament, FYF was featured in a number of events and news articles, and high profile visits underlined the continued importance of religious and ethnic minority rights.
Of the highest consequence was the long-awaited passage of the Yezidi Survivors' Bill in Iraqi parliament. This law establishes compensation for Yezidi women and child survivors of ISIS sexual violence and human trafficking after August 3, 2014, also including Turkmen, Christian, and Shabak survivors. The law also stipulates the provision of rehabilitation and reintegration services for affected individuals. FYF warmly welcomed this critical step, but cautions that clear implementation of the law must be prioritized by the relevant parties. In addition, the law must be interpreted as only the first step on the long path towards state efforts to facilitate healing, rehabilitation, and reintegration for the Yezidi community.
From March 5-8, Pope Francis embarked on the first-ever Papal visit to Iraq. Moved by the challenges faced by Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities, Pope Francis spoke to the need for an inclusive Iraq that values diversity of religious identity in the cradle of civilization.
On this topic of addressing the fundamental needs of Iraq's many minority groups, FYF's Executive Director published an op-ed with the Religious Freedom Institute highlighting the path forward to coexistence and equal rights. The piece highlights concrete legal, educational, and security-focused steps to establish a vibrant, successful, and inclusive multi-ethnic/religious Iraq.
On March 25th, FYF joined the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Society of International Law to celebrate the launch of the Pursuing Justice for Mass Atrocities handbook. This tool is a practitioner-oriented resource designed to assist survivor groups in advocating for justice and their own rights after mass atrocities, and includes FYF materials.
FYF represented the Yezidi voice on a panel, along with Uyghur, Rohingya, and South Sudanese activists, to mark the launch and discuss ways in which survivor communities can ethically pursue justice in the aftermath of atrocities.
On March 8th, FYF celebrated one of our favorite days of the year - International Women's Day! As a woman-led, feminist organization, FYF is proud to advance the fight for gender equality and equity in each of our programs. With over 70% of FYF staff comprised of females - including a majority from the displaced Yezidi community - FYF is committed to lifting up the voices of women as powerful agents of change.
Thank you, as always, for your steadfast support of the Yezidi community.
Pari Ibrahim Founder and Executive Director
In the News
Al-Monitor | Iraq passes law addressing women survivors of Yazidi genocide | This article highlights the new bill, discussing broader security concerns and quoting FYF.
Gatestone Institute | Iraq: Turkey Set to Attack the Yazidis? | This article discusses the threat of Turkish incursion into Sinjar, quoting FYF.
Kurdistan24 | Iraq's parliament ratifies survivor law in major recognition of Yezidi genocide | This article, quoting FYF, highlights the recently passed Survivors' Bill, including compensation and pension stipulations.
Religious Freedom and Business Foundation | Call for businesses to raise awareness of modern-day genocide | This campaign highlights opportunities for business leaders to advance FYF's post-genocide reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts.
We hope this newsletter finds you and your families safe and healthy. February was both a somber and a hopeful month, marked by commemorations, groundbreakings, and community losses. We are reminded at this time of the power of community as we work together to build a better future for the Yezidi people.
On February 4th, a ceremony was held to lay to rest 104 Yezidis murdered in Kocho on August 15-16, 2014 by ISIS terrorists. Following ceremonies in Baghdad, dignitaries and families joined together in Kocho to honor the valued community members lost on those fateful days. FYF mental health paraprofessionals - some of whom are survivors themselves - were present at the burial to provide onsite services to those in need.
FYF issued a statement upon the burial, noting that “FYF has worked with a large number of survivors from Kocho, some of whom have bravely provided their accounts about the systematic nature of the ISIS attacks, executions, subsequent enslavement, and other atrocities they have suffered. FYF and others are working to ensure that those who perpetrated these crimes are held accountable, wherever they are located.”
FYF turned a new page this month, breaking ground on the Bakery Training Center. Instructors at the center will train Yezidi women in basic business skills (including mathematics) and baking techniques. In turn, this will give trainees better skills to build their own small businesses or secure employment, whether in the IDP setting or upon return to Sinjar. With a recent study in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems indicating that employment plays a significant role in suicide ideation among Yezidi survivors, livelihoods projects like this one are a critical piece of the puzzle for both financial stability and psychological well-being.
Unfortunately, February saw the loss of multiple members of the Yezidi community. In Bersive IDP camp, five tents burned and tragically, four Yezidi lives were lost. This avoidable incident highlighted the desperate need for better housing solutions in Yezidi IDP camps, including pre-fab caravans that don’t require dangerous gas heaters during the cold winter months.
The mental health and suicide crisis is also ongoing, with another young life lost to suicide this month in the Khanke IDP camp. While our Harikara teams were deployed in an effort to prevent the loss of life, the individual at risk was unfortunately no longer at his residence by the time our team arrived. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones. Meanwhile, our team will continue to provide support in the community to the greatest extent possible.
FYF Harikara visits an IDP family
Thank you, friends, for your continued solidarity with the Free Yezidi Foundation and the Yezidi people.
Pari Ibrahim Executive Director Free Yezidi Foundation
In the News
The Jerusalem Post | Yazidis denounce Syrian ruling requiring them to follow Islamic law | A recent ruling in Syria strips the indigenous Yezidi population of fundamental religious freedoms. FYF is quoted regarding the dangers of subjecting Yezidis to Muslim religious courts.
Kurdistan-24 | Hopelessness, continued displacement lead to spike in suicides among Yezidis: KRG | FYF mental health and psychosocial support paraprofessionals are quoted in this article highlighting increased suicide numbers among the displaced Yezidi population.
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