Reflections on the Yazidi Genocide and finding the road to recovery

For Iraqis around the world, the month of August brings back memories of 2014 when the Islamic State invaded and occupied large parts of the country’s territory. The month of August is also significant because it marks the anniversary of the Yazidi Genocide. 

When news broke of the Yazidi’s fleeing up Mount Sinjar, the international community sprang into action. The US Air Force and the Royal Air Force worked in cooperation with the Iraqi Government, to first drop aid supplies onto the mountain and to then open a humanitarian corridor so that people could escape down. 

The world heard how female Yazidi’s were being kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery, and men were being indiscriminately murdered by the international terrorist organization known as Daesh. Young boys were also routinely separated from their families and forced to undergo terrorist training in a brutal system known as ‘Cubs of the Caliphate’. 

Among the first voices to declare the actions of Islamic State a ‘genocide’ was the UK’s Baroness Emma Nicholson, who for over 30 years has led the AMAR International Foundation. The AMAR Foundation’s work started in Iraq, to support the Marsh Arabs who had been forcibly displaced by then President Saddam Hussain. 

As the scale of the genocide by ISIS became apparent, Baroness Nicholson and the AMAR Foundation sprang into action, providing material support to those displaced. Looking to the future, AMAR then launched the Escaping Darkness Appeal in 2015. They recognized that victims of genocide needed support in escaping the darkness of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

Seven years after ISIS launched their campaign to eradicate Iraq’s Yazidi community, the AMAR Foundation are currently providing Mental Health assistance to 50.000 members of this ancient community. As part of their wider approach to recovery, AMAR have also been working with over 400 young Yazidi’s, where they have been learning to play traditional musical instruments and documenting traditional Yazidi songs. 

For the Iraqi community in Britain, these efforts by the AMAR Foundation in Iraq follow on from a long tradition, where music has played a key role in recovery from the hidden wounds of conflict. During the 1990’s, the Iraqi community in Manchester would often hold concerts, where people of all ethnicities and religions would gather to hear the sounds of the Oud. 

Numbering around 20.000 Iraqi’s, the city of Manchester is now home to many people who have survived war, persecution, torture and political repression. The actions of ISIS against the Yazidi’s also spurred Manchester residents to donate to AMAR and take a more active role in supporting the Foundation. Events have included student mobilizations at the University of Manchester and people taking part on the city’s annual fun-runs.

by Hussein Al-alak

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