Yezidi Women's Services

by Free Yezidi Foundation
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Yezidi Women's Services
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Yezidi Women's Services
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Yezidi Women's Services
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Yezidi Women's Services

Project Report | Jul 6, 2023
Combating Hate With Holistic Support to Yezidis

By Olivia Wells | Programs Director

The month of May was a difficult time for the Yezidi community, which faced widespread anti-Yezidi rhetoric in Iraq, Turkish bombings in Sinjar, and some NGOs preying on vulnerable Yezidis to force conversion to Christianity. These concerning events highlight the ongoing vulnerabilities of Yezidis in Iraq and the vital need to continue investing in the community’s post-conflict recovery in the face of increasing hate and decreasing international support.

COMBATING RISE IN ANTI-YEZIDI RHETORIC IN IRAQ

A recent rise in hate speech against the Yezidi community has spread throughout Iraq and is reminiscent of the xenophobic ideology peddled by ISIS to justify its genocide against the community. This has frightened Yezidi civilians and illustrates the ongoing discrimination against a community that faces compounding vulnerabilities resulting from protracted displacement and lack of support to sustainably rebuild their homeland.

Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF) responded by condemning the hate speech in a press statement and calling on the Government of Iraq (GOI), Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and international community to publicly denounce this xenophobia. FYF’s Executive Director, Pari Ibrahim, also hosted a Twitter Spaces event, Condemning and Combating Anti-Yezidi Rhetoric, where she was joined by several Yezidi and international experts who addressed the many ways to effectively condemn, confront, and combat rising xenophobia against the Yezidi community.

The Dutch and Japanese delegations in Iraq, including Ambassador Futoshi Matsumoto and Consul General Jaco Beerends, visited FYF’s Enterprise and Training Center and Bakery to express solidarity with the Yezidi community and gather more information about the uptick in incendiary rhetoric against the community, discussing options to combat hate speech with FYF’s field team.

LIVING UNDER CONSTANT THREAT OF VIOLENCE

On May 16th and 23rd, Sinjar once again came under threat of targeted Turkish airstrikes. FYF called out these attacks against genocide survivors that continue with impunity. The latter attack resulted in the deaths of three Yezidis. The Turkish military is a massive threat to peace, security, and the return of IDPs to Sinjar. These attacks continue to be met with silence from the GOI and KRG governments.

EXPLOITING VULNERABLE YEZIDIS

FYF has been following, with growing concern, immoral and inexcusable behavior from some NGOs in Iraq who are exploiting the vulnerabilities of Yezidis to pressure conversion in exchange for vital services and resources. Middle East Eye recently exposed the extent of this parasitic behavior in an article that touched upon the surreptitious efforts to convert vulnerable Yezidis who they deem ‘devil worshippers.’ FYF has communicated its concerns to government officials and is pleased that at least one investigation is now underway.

FORGING AHEAD FOR A BETTER FUTURE

Despite the numerous attacks against Yezidis this month, the FYF team forged ahead with its work to empower the community’s most vulnerable.

FYF’s first project in Sinjar, in partnership with Sinjar Academy, is empowering Sinjar’s youth to develop innovative project ideas to sustainably improve the region and facilitate increased civic engagement. In May, the top 10 participants of “Supporting Youth Participation in Civic Action” with the best projects were invited to the Sinjar Academy center. There they presented their innovative projects ideas to a committee for evaluation. The committee selected the top 5 qualified participants who presented their projects at a final public pitching event in Sinjar.

The FYF team is preparing to launch our new project, “ETC 2.0: Creating Tomorrow’s Artisans,” which will empower displaced Yezidi women to learn new crafts skills, earn an income, and expand FYF’s existing Chonky Animals product line in Iraq and international markets, as well as provide displaced persons in the region with English, Arabic, IT skills, and professional development courses.

European culture TV channel, Arte TV, recently spent time with FYF’s Country Director, Hewan Omer, to discuss the current state of the Yezidi community in Iraq nearly a decade after the genocide. FYF’s team showed Arte TV’s crew the FYF Enterprise and Training Center, where Yezidi women are empowered with livelihood skills and job opportunities.

FYF’s Executive Director, Pari Ibrahim, participated in the International Religious Freedom Summit on Twitter Spaces to share her concerns about the rise of hate speech and the precarious situation of the Yezidi religious minority in Iraq.

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June was a busy month for the FYF team, as we made great strides in providing tangible support to Yezidis in Iraq and advocating to keep the Yezidi Genocide on the international agenda. The events of the month were a stark reminder that justice for the Yezidi community comes in many forms: from reparations to criminal prosecutions to dignified burials to economic empowerment. 

LIVELIHOODS OPPORTUNITIES HELP DISPLACED YEZIDI WOMEN HEAL

FYF’s Enterprise and Training Center (ETC) in Khanke, Duhok, sustainably empowers women to reduce their vulnerabilities through skills training, jobs placement, educational courses, and income generating activities. At the ETC, female artisans are trained in crafting and marketing one-of-a-kind items, including the Chonky Animals® product line of hand knitted stuffed animals.

100% of the proceeds from a purchase go to the artisans, supplies, and maintenance of the ETC, which empowers Yezidi women and survivors to heal, recover, and reclaim their agency. Check out our Chonky Animals and Crafts products to make a purchase today!  

My job as an artisan helps me with relaxation and meditation, as weaving makes me forget all of my worries and anxious feelings about the Yezidi genocide and the difficult living conditions in the IDP camp. I am grateful that FYF provided us with the ETC and this kind of economic empowerment.” - Yezidi female artisan

Dutch Ambassador Hans Sandee recently visited FYF’s ETC. FYF's County Director, Hewan Omer, and Livelihoods Manager, Khalida Nawaf, gave the Ambassador a tour of the ETC and explained the services FYF is currently providing to support displaced women to learn new skills and become economically empowered. 

MEET FYF'S FEMALE LEADERS

FYF has launched its new social media series: “Meet Our Female Leaders.” As the only majority female Yezidi-led INGO, FYF prides itself in empowering Yezidi women to step into leadership roles. In June, we met members of our justice team.

"Working at FYF has enabled me to improve myself personally and professionally. I am an ambitious person, and FYF supports women like me to achieve their dreams." - Balqees Rasho, Justice Logistics Manager, read more.

"I feel more powerful and independent because I am in a place where my opinion matters." - Hazrat Gali Khudaida, Justice Officer, read more.

"My work helped me discover the hidden power that I have, but did not realize was there. FYF showed me the path to finding that power to support Yezidi women." - Suna Haji Ali, Justice Officer, read more.

EMPOWERING SURVIVORS TO ACCESS REPARATIONS

FYF’s protection team is continuing its outreach to survivors of ISIS captivity to enable them to apply for reparations under the Yezidi Survivors Law (YSL). In June, they met with Sara (name changed to protect identity), a 16 year old Yezidi girl who was abducted with her brother on August 3rd, 2014. Eventually separated from her brother, Sara tried many times to escape captivity. 

After 5 years of suffering the horrors of ISIS’ daily violence, Sara managed to escape and return to her family, who now live in a displacement camp in the Kurdistan Region. Sara discussed the importance of FYF’s work with survivors: “After the suffering I endured during those years of injustice and torture, the Free Yezidi Foundation team helped me greatly with the process of applying to the Yezidi Survivors Law. They informed me about the law and helped me apply, so I did not need to travel to the General Directorate of Survivors’ Affairs in Mosul." Read more.

Another survivor beneficiary who escaped ISIS captivity with her youngest son after 11 months of enslavement also commented on her improved ability to apply to the YSL after support from FYF’s protection team: “Due to their consultation, I knew what documents were required to apply to the YSL, and the FYF team helped me apply. If they hadn’t helped me, I would not have been able to obtain my rights as a survivor." Read more.

HONORING DISPLACED PERSONS AND SURVIVORS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE

FYF's Country Director and Livelihoods Manager participated in an event hosted by UNAMI to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, where they emphasized the importance of holistic programming to empower survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

FYF female staff also participated in events focused on the needs of survivors, including a conference hosted by IOM, the "Annual Conference on the Implementation of the Yezidi Survivors Law: Towards Achieving Justice for Victims of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence," and consultations with the Coalition for Just Reparations. 

To commemorate World Refugee Day, FYF's Country Director Hewan Omer participated in the University of Southampton's event "Lost Homes, New Horizons: Exploring Forced Displacement Through the Power of Education."

During the event, Hewan shared the story of the Yezidi community, the genocide Yezidis faced in 2014, and their struggle to recover and rebuild ever since. Hewan also shared her personal story of surviving the genocide and being forced into internal displacement. 

Hewan emphasized the gendered aspect of displacement and the compounding vulnerabilities displaced Yezidi women face due to gender-based violence and unequal access to job opportunities and education. Hewan closed by illustrating how to tackle this issue in an inclusive way, by empowering Yezidi women and all displaced and refugee women to lead the humanitarian, development, and policy work that directly impacts their wellbeing. Only then will holistic and tangible change be possible.

TWO STEPS CLOSER TO JUSTICE

On June 20th, the remains of 39 Yezidis killed by ISIS during the Yezidi Genocide were returned to their families. After being kept in Baghdad for two years and transferred to a forensic hospital for identification in Mosul, the bodies of 39 victims were transported back to Sinjar in a burial ceremony attended by hundreds of people. 

Approximately 95 mass graves of Yezidis have been discovered throughout Iraq, yet only 43 of them have been exhumed. Mass graves are a constant reminder of the loss, past horrors, and trauma ISIS inflicted upon the Yezidi community. Exhuming the remainder of mass graves, identifying bodies, and returning them for proper burials is crucial to enabling survivors to honor their loved ones and find closure.

A German court has convicted a former ISIS member of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for enslaving and abusing a young Yezidi woman. The convicted German national, a 37-year-old woman referred to by the Higher Regional Court of Koblenz as Nadine K., was found guilty of “aiding and abetting genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.” She was sentenced to nine years and three months for her involvement in the abuse of the victim. FYF commends Germany for taking the lead in prosecuting ISIS perpetrators, including female ISIS members. This is the third conviction of an ISIS perpetrator for genocide.

 

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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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