Sinjar after IS – how the Federal Foreign Office is helping the Yazidis in Iraq

The Yazidis suffered mass persecution under the Islamic State (IS) terror Regime.

The Yazidis suffered mass persecution under the Islamic State (IS) terror Regime., © Iason Athanasiadis / OCHA

06.12.2019 - Article

The Yazidis suffered mass persecution under the Islamic State (IS) terror Regime.

Even five years after the defeat of IS, this ethnic and religious minority is still suffering from the effects of the atrocities committed by IS and the ongoing difficult security situation in northwest Iraq.

Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis have still not returned home, but are instead living in the Region of Kurdistan-Iraq as internally displaced persons.

Germany is working on the ground with its international partners and the Iraqi authorities to improve the Yazidis’ living conditions in Iraq. Using funding from its Directorate-General for Crisis Prevention, Stabilisation, Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Assistance, the Federal Foreign Office is supporting ongoing Iraqi initiatives in the Sinjar region with the aim of enabling the Yazidis to return home and creating conditions to allow them to stay there permanently.

Foreign policy funding in Action

Areas where the Yazidis lived before August 2014. The exact current size of these areas is unknown due to displacement and refugee movements.
Areas where the Yazidis lived before August 2014. The exact current size of these areas is unknown due to  displacement and refugee movements.© AA

Lasting stabilisation will only be possible in Iraq when people regain trust in their state, feel safe in the country and are able to rely on basic services. The Funding Facility for Stabilisation, initiated largely by Germany and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) aims to achieve this. The goal of a range of coordinated individual measures that can be rapidly implemented is to tangibly increase the Government’s ability to act for the public and to improve the Iraqi people’s living conditions as a “peace dividend”.

For example, the electricity supply is being reconnected and roads, sewers, schools and kindergartens are being rebuilt in Sinjar, thus actively helping to create the prerequisites for people who were driven out of the region, particularly religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis, to be able to return to their home regions. The programme is flanked by a Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH project that provides basic services (e.g. mobile clinics and waste collection).
At the bilateral level, the Federal Foreign Office is helping to rebuild destroyed infrastructure via various implementing organisations such as UNMAS, IOM, GIZ and the Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights, as well as a loan of 500 million euros managed by Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW).

UNMAS is supporting landmine clearance throughout Iraq, but explicitly in the Sinjar region. IS left highly contaminated towns in its wake and deliberately set mines for political purposes to make it more difficult for the displaced civilian population to return and to further destabilise the security situation. With German support, the mined buildings abandoned by IS are being made fit for purpose again and provided to Iraqis as safe homes. In order to enable Iraqis to help themselves in the future, this project also involves training the local population and deploying them in mine-clearance teams. During the training modules, groups comprised of men and women and of people of different faiths have formed teams in Sinjar.

The IOM Community Policing project, which is funded by the Federal Foreign Office, is active in over 20 locations in the Nineveh and Sinjar regions. With German support, representatives of municipalities and the security authorities meet to discuss urgent problems and find solutions. The idea is to enable Iraqis to experience police officers serving their communities and to help returnees to overcome their fear of conflicts.

Helping internally displaced persons in Iraq, including many Yazidis, to process the traumas they experienced is a priority for the German Government. The Federal Foreign Office thus provides funding for pyschosocial support for victims, for example in the Dohok region via the Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights. And with the help of Land Baden-Württemberg, the local university has been able to launch its first degree course to train trauma therapists.

The Federal Foreign Office has funded stabilisation projects with a volume of 237 million euros in Iraq between 2014 and 2019.

Aid for IDPs and host communities

Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis have still not returned home
Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis have still not returned home© Alan Ayouni NRC

In order to ensure basic services for internally displaced persons and vulnerable returnees in Iraq and to support Iraqi host communities, German humanitarian assistance is providing shelter, healthcare, water, hygiene and sanitation. In Iraq, this funding focuses on people who are particularly vulnerable and whose humanitarian needs are thus a priority, including the Yazidis. The Federal Foreign Office is providing humanitarian funding for projects in the Nineveh province, in the Sinjar region and in Dohok with a large Yazidi population. These projects are being implemented by the partner organisations Malteser International, German Red Cross, Mission East, Doctors of the World and CARE. The Federal Foreign Office is also funding humanitarian programmes run by international organisations (UNHCR, IOM, ICRC and WFP) to help people in regions with a large Yazidi population, e.g. in Sinjar.

Since 2014, the Federal Foreign Office has provided a total of 550 million euros in humanitarian aid to Iraq, including 52 million euros in 2019 alone.


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