At the occasion of the 8th anniversary of the Yezidi genocide, Iraqi Muslim religious leaders and tribal leaders from Ninewa Governorate issued public statements aiming to support the return of displaced Yezidi survivors to their areas of origin by reaffirming their commitment to support justice for genocide survivors and foster religious and ethnic diversity and co-existence. 

On July 28, Shia and Sunni religious leaders* representing Muslim religious authorities from all over Iraq addressed the Yezidi community in a joint statement announced in Mosul – a city regarded as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) capital only five years ago. The statement denounces ISIL’s crimes with specific attention to those experienced by the Yezidi community, rejects violent extremism and reaffirms their support to all efforts to provide justice to Yezidis.

The religious leaders outlined practical steps they plan to take in order to embrace ethnoreligious diversity as a source of wealth and foster community cohesion and reconciliation. These include increasing interreligious collaboration to address issues of mutual interest – such as achieving justice for survivors of ISIL’s crimes – and bolstering messages of peace and tolerance through networks of imams.

“The outcomes of this statement will be a beginning for supporting security, stability and peaceful coexistence,” said Director of the Joint Center for Security and Intelligence in Ninewa, Mr. Abdul Khaleq Khiqani.

On August 2, following the statement of religious leaders, seventy tribal leaders representing over forty tribes across Ninewa issued their own statement officially declaring their support to Iraqi government authorities in the identification and prosecution of members of ISIL. The statement affirms the leaders’ commitment to the rule of law and denounces ISIL’s atrocities, including those perpetrated against Yezidis in particular.

“Genocide against Yezidi component in Sinjar is a disgrace in the history of humanity,” said Mr. Ali Omar Gaabo, Governorate Advisor for NGO Affairs in Ninewa, during an event to mark the release of the joint statement. “As the message of religious leaders was delivered a few days ago, your message, tribal leaders, will be delivered today: ISIL do not represent anyone; they are a group of rogue criminals who committed crimes against everyone and that only represent themselves. Tribal sheikhs support the implementation of transitional justice and the accountability of all those whose hands are stained with the blood, honor and money of Iraqis.”

Leaders identified actions they intend to take to realize their commitment, including the provision of assistance to security and judicial authorities toward the prosecution of ISIL members who committed crimes, as well as direct collaboration with Yezidi leaders to enable the safe and voluntary return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from all ethnoreligious groups to the Sinjar region. The statement was developed in close collaboration with the Tribal Affairs Office of Ninewa.

Both statements are result of process of local consultations and multi-party dialogues facilitated by Peace Paradigms Organization (PPO), supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“This is a great achievement, but it is not where the story ends,” said Haider Al Ibrahimi, CEO of PPO. “A lot still needs to be done to materialize the terms in both statements, to repair trust and constructive relationships between Yezidi and Muslim communities, as well as between them and local and federal authorities, to push forward the reconciliation agenda in Sinjar.”

The statements of Iraqi Muslim religious and tribal leaders echo the requests of Yezidis and other communities of survivors – that justice and solidarity are the most important pillars of the process of healing and building lasting peace after ISIL’s genocide in Iraq,” said IOM Iraq’s Head of Peacebuilding and Stabilization, Siobhan Simojoki. “We hope that the symbolic power of their words and their planned concrete actions will feed into wider efforts to address the impact of the genocide on Yezidi and other communities.”

*The religious leaders who participated to the development of the joint statement represent the following figures, institutions and authorities:

  • Sunni Endowment in Nineveh 
  • Shia Endowment in Nineveh
  • Ayatullah Bashir Al Najafi
  • Ayatullah Ali Al Sistani
  • Ayatullah Kamal Haidari
  • Ayatullah Al Hakim
  • Al Husseini Ataba العتبة الحسينية
  • Al Kho’ei School in Maissan مكتب المرجع الديني الامام الخوئ
  • Religious School in Najaf  الحوزة العلمية في النجف
  • Moderation Ullama in Iraq  تجمع علماء الاعتدال في العراق
  • Al Ullama Association in Nineveh  
  • CVE Department of the Sunni Endowment
  • Anbar Central Reconciliation Committee
  • Sunni Endowment in Anbar

They also include other distinguished imams and religious leaders from Ninewa, Anbar, Basra, Karbala, Najaf and Baghdad Governorates.

SDG 16 - Peace Justice and Strong Institutions