Stronger Together: Yezidi Survivors Groups Mark Genocide, 9 Years Later
Sinjar, Iraq – On Thursday, 3 August 2023, nine years since the Yezidi genocide perpetrated by Daesh, survivor groups in Sinjar came together to mark the anniversary by holding their first ever public activities: a candle-lit vigil honouring the thousands who lost their lives, and a community afforestation campaign – a watershed moment towards the amplification of youth voices and leadership in Iraq.
Survivors' Voices Network – initially launched in 2021 for Yezidi survivors residing in Iraqi Kurdistan and now expanded to include all Iraqi survivors who were held captive by Daesh – held a silent vigil in Sinjar, where participants lit candles to pay tribute to those who perished in the aftermath of the attacks. This event served as a powerful reminder of the resilience and strength of the survivors.
“It is challenging for us to participate in these activities, but we must make the effort and try. All the pain and wounds converged upon us on this day,” said Delal*, a member of the Network. “We want justice, the prosecution of Daesh members, the reconstruction of our regions, the unveiling of mass graves and the relentless search for missing individuals.”
In parallel, Hope Givers – a group of young male Yezidi survivors once held captive by Daesh and who now work together to bring attention to the plight of boys and young men who survived Daesh indoctrination attempts and enslavement – carried out an afforestation campaign in a village in Sinjar district. The initiative aimed to transform the village's landscape by planting trees along public streets and homes, creating a greener environment and providing shade in the midst of a climate change-induced heat wave – thereby encouraging residents to be stewards of the environment and showing those still displaced that there is hope in return.
“Let this day serve as a reminder for people to plant hope and overcome the painful memories that the community endured. Let's transform it into a day of fields filled with hope for the future,” said Olan*, a member of the Hope Givers.
Both initiatives highlight the importance of survivors’ leadership in healing and rebuilding their communities.
"IOM is proud to support the Survivors' Voices Network and Hope Givers in their meaningful initiatives to honour and enshrine their community’s experiences in public memory, while also bringing people together to build a brighter future," said Mr. Giorgi Gigauri, Chief of Mission for IOM Iraq. "We will continue to support these communities through every point of access we can – from direct assistance to those displaced and returned alike, to capacity building and advocacy at the highest levels of Government."
Also on 3 August, the Office of the Prime Minister held a commemoration event in Baghdad attended by the highest levels of Government and UN representation. In Erbil, the Kurdistan Regional Government organized a commemoration together with the Yezidi civil society organization, Yazda.
Though the challenges, devastation and trauma are immense, through a survivor-led whole-of-society partnership and dedicated government action, our collective efforts can facilitate healing and create a future defined by dignity, security and peace for the Yezidi community.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy of individuals
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