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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 April 2019

Iraqi president Barham Salih proposes bill on rights for Yazidi female survivors

Barham Salih calls for state recognition of ISIS atrocities against the minority as "genocide"

Yazidis flee towards the Syrian border after their town of Sinjar was attacked by ISIS in August 2014. Reuters
Yazidis flee towards the Syrian border after their town of Sinjar was attacked by ISIS in August 2014. Reuters

Iraqi President Barham Salih on Sunday sent a draft bill to parliament that would classify atrocities committed by ISIS against Yazidi women as “genocide”.

For several years, Sinjar, home to Yazidi ethno-religious minority, was the site of what the United Nations called an ISIS-led genocidal campaign.

The insurgents, shot, beheaded or burnt alive the group’s members and kidnapped thousands, especially its women. Many were forced into sexual slavery.

“The draft bill presented to parliament guarantees the rights of female Yazidi survivors of ISIS. It proposes they get monthly allowance, rehabilitation and to ensure a dignified life,” the president’s office said on Twitter.

The draft law stipulates that priority shall be given the Yazidi women who wish to work for the government.

It also aims to recognize the 2014 events as a “genocide” and to declare August 3, the day ISIS attacked Sinjar, as a national holiday.

A special committee shall be established on Yazidi issues that is linked to parliament.

“It will provide the required care, housing and studying opportunities for Yazidi women as well as address the legal status for children born during these circumstances,” the office said.

The draft was compiled on March 28, according to Mr Salih’s office.

It remains unclear when parliament will vote on the new law.

Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman who escaped ISIS captivity and won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for her activism against sexual violence, participated in the discussion of the draft bill with Mr Salih.

She was one of an estimated 3,000 Yazidi women and girls who were kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery.

Followers of the Yazidi faith were regarded as "devil-worshippers" by ISIS.

Although Iraq declared victory over ISIS in 2017, it has yet to declare ISIS crimes against the Yazidis as “genocide” despite the UN’s recognition.

But the decision was welcomed by Faris Keti, who served as an adviser to the late Prince Tahseen, the head of the world’s Yazidi community.

“Even though the decision came very late, its appreciated because any campaign or initiative to help those victims and survivors to get their right and pay the while of justice forward is more than welcome,” Mr Keti told The National.

He expressed hope that the bill will be passed by parliament and urged for more action to be taken to protect Yazidi survivors.

Last month Iraq's government started exhuming a mass grave left behind by the terror group in north-western Sinjar, where Yazidis are believed to have been buried.

Thousands of Yazidi members are still unaccounted for and the majority of the community has yet to return home.

Updated: April 7, 2019 10:17 PM

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