Baghdad holds first ceremony for Yazidi victims of ISIS

A funeral procession for 104 Yazidis who were killed by the Islamic State group (ISIS) in Shingal in 2014, was held in Baghdad on Thursday, the first such commemoration for of victims exhumed from mass graves. 

President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadimi and First Deputy Speaker of Parliament Hassan al-Kaabi were in attendance, along with a number of military and security leaders and members of the Yazidi community. 

The ceremony took place in Martyr's Memorial Square in Baghdad, were military vehicles carried the victims' bodies wrapped in the Iraqi flag in a funeral procession. The 104 victims will be returned to the village of Kocho, in the Shingal region, for burial this weekend. 

"On February 6th, members of the Yazidi community will gather for a burial ceremony to honor the deceased. Over six years after the genocide, the families of Kocho will finally be able to lay some of their loved ones to rest," read a statement from Nobel Laureate and Yazidi survivor Nadia Murad. 

She called on the Iraqi government and international community to act on the evidence of the genocide that was committed against Yazidis, by "prosecuting ISIS perpetrators for their crimes against humanity." 

Kocho was the site one of the worst atrocities committed against the community, with nearly all the village’s boys and men shot dead, and the young women and girls sold into slavery, including Murad. 

"The victims will be buried in the village of Kocho, which was the scene of a terrorist crime of ISIS that embodied the bloodshed of ISIS," President Salih tweeted. "What happened to our sons and daughters from different religions and sects is a wound on the whole nation, and victory for the victims is the state's duty, to do justice to them." 

The bodies of the 104 victims were exhumed under the coordination of the United Nations mission investigating the crimes of ISIS in Iraq, UNITAD. 

Amal Clooney, legal representative of Yazidi victims, welcomed the UN investigation and the burial as an “important step.” 

"Although I represent Yazidi victims in a handful of cases before national courts, there is still no global legal strategy on the prosecution of ISIS crimes. Investigations led by the UN are an important step; but they have not led to an international trial. And around 2,800 Yazidis are still missing," she said in a published statement. 

There is legislation currently in parliament that seeks to provide reparations for female genocide survivors. But just days before the funeral ceremony, the legislature failed to make the quorum needed to vote on the bill. 

The deputy parliament speaker said they are working to preserve the rights of all components by enacting fair legislation that affirms complete equality among all people, state media reported on Thursday. 

"The enactment of the Yazidi Female Survivors law should go ahead in the coming period to guarantee their rights and integrate them into society, along with rehabilitating the infrastructure of their liberated areas," said Kaabi, a day after he sponsored a ceremony to honor Yazidi women survivors. 

President Salih met this week with Nadia Murad in Baghdad. He called on parliament "to expedite the legislation of the Yazidi female survivors law by the House of Representatives, and expand it to include other affected segments." 

The Yazidi Female Survivors Bill, which has languished in parliament for nearly two years without a vote, guarantees job opportunities to survivors of ISIS by allocating them two percent of jobs in Iraq's public sector, along with a fixed salary and land. 

More than 6,000 women and children were taken captive by ISIS when it took over the Yazidi heartland of Shingal in August 2014, committing genocide against the ethno-religious community. Thousands are still missing. 

by Sura Ali

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