On 3 August 2014 ISIS began the systematic destruction of the Sinjar district in Northern Iraq. To date, this is the most brutal attack the terrorist group has carried out. Not only because the sheer amount of destruction, but especially because it was aimed primarily at the annihilation of the Yezidis, a religious minority in the Region. Sinjar district is considered the most affected area as it was systematically destroyed by ISIS. Further destruction was caused by the two years of fighting between the Peshmerga forces and the ISIS terrorist group. Approximately 16,000 civilian houses are destroyed beyond repair and must be rebuilt. The assets and livelihoods of the families in the suburban areas were looted and some property and agricultural equipment destroyed.
The consequences of this brutal attack have been extremely tough in the short and long run, for the Yezidis and for all the people who resided in Sinjar. The massacre has caused the displacement of approximately 360,000 people from the district, including Yezidis, Arabs, Christians and other minorities, who fled to the Sinjar Mountain and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The number of Yezidi civilians executed amounts to 1,293.
Despite the fact that ISIS has been officially defeated, the pain and destruction disseminated by the terrorist group is not yet over. ISIS captured and enslaved 6,417 Yezidi civilians (3,547 female and 2,870 male). Women were sold or simply given away as sex-slaves to ISIS leaders and fighters. The number of Yezidis under captivity who have been rescued amounts to 3,300 (of which: 1,150 women, 337 men, 946 girls, and 867 boys). Still 3,117 (1,452 female and 1665 male) people remain under ISIS enslavement; their destiny is unfortunately still unkwown. Sinjar suffered a quasi- total destruction of its infrastructure, buildings, and private homes as a result of heavy fighting and airstrikes for 15 months. Sinjar city was hit the hardest.
More often than not many obstacles prevent victims from returning confidently to their homes: houses are destroyed and the area is not safe due to the presence of IEDs, explosives, mines and booby traps. Those families who have returned are exposed to constant dangers, due to unexploded ordnances and mines in their locations. It is mainly for this uncertainty that families are reluctant to return to Sinjar. The current statistics show that the total number of Yezidi IDPs in the Kurdistan Region for 2018 is 153,908 individuals in camps, and 100,577 individuals outside camps.
The Sinjar attack was not only cause of material destruction: ISIS demonstrated its ultimate ferocity in the treatment of women and girls. For each woman, the invasion of ISIS became a personal tragedy with irreparable physical and psychological wounds. It is for this reason that looking forward into the future in the reconstruction of Sinjar and the return of the displaced people, the perspective of women and girl has to be regarded with attention. Yezidi women and girls have their specific needs to be met in order to play a key positive role in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of their families and the entire district. Of particular importance is the development and reintroduction of health care, education, water and sanitation, but also rule of law and security to ensure that a “safe and dignified” return of IPDs is defined especially through the eyes and experiences of women and girls.
Sinjar district requires extensive financial and technical assistance over the next years to enable its reconstruction, especially in the creation of viable solutions for sustainable return and long-term peace. This would require estimate of $458,433,854 to achieve priority targets in all relevant sectors. International actors are thus called in to help and invest to provide relief to thousands of IDPs, whose lives ISIS has destroyed.
This crime cannot be forgotten: it is for this reason that the KRG, in the person of PM Nechirvan Barzani, continues to pledge continued support for the victims of ISIS and urges the international community as well as the Iraqi parliament to recognise the Sinjar massacre as a genocide according to international law.
Up-to-date information used in this article has been compiled by the KRG MoI – Joint Crisis Coordination Centre and with the help of the KRG Department of Foreign Affairs. Follow these links find out more: JCC Report; PM Barzani Statement.