How the German Government is helping the Yazidis in Iraq

Yazidis in 2014 fleeing from the terrorist organisation IS

Yazidis in 2014 fleeing from the terrorist organisation IS, © picture alliance/abaca

07.08.2019 - Article

Five years after the mass persecution by the terrorist organisation Islamic State, the Yazidis are still suffering from the consequences of the atrocities committed by the Islamic State and the ongoing difficult security situation in north‑west Iraq.

Persecution, displacement and forced migration

The Yazidis are a separate religious community which mainly lives in northern Iraq. The terrorist organisation Islamic State (IS), which in the summer of 2014 occupied, among other areas, parts of Nineveh district, including Sinjar region, brutally persecuted the Yazidis: thousands of them were murdered or driven out of their homes. Women, girls and boys were enslaved and subjected to sexual violence on a massive scale. Around 2900 individuals are still missing.

Security situation in settlements in Sinjar still tense

Five years later, the situation of many Yazidis remains difficult: according to the International Organization for Migration, there are still around 300,000 internally displaced persons, the majority of whom live in the Governorate of Dohuk in the Region of Kurdistan‑Iraq. Although IS has been pushed back out of the area, many internally displaced persons and those who fled abroad are still too scared to return home to Sinjar, or Shingal as it is called in the Kurdish language, for the security situation remains unstable. Many militias are operating in the area. In addition to the security situation, destroyed infrastructure and the lack of possibilities for earning a living, a return is often rendered more difficult by the trauma suffered by individuals.

Help and support for those most in need

With its assistance for Iraq, the German Government wants to ensure that everyone affected by the conflict receives help on the basis of their humanitarian need and in line with humanitarian principles, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. The focus is on those who are especially vulnerable and whose needs are very urgent, including the Yazidis.

Assisting internally displaced persons and Syrian refugees is the priority for German humanitarian assistance in northern Iraq. Among other things, German humanitarian assistance is being used to provide safe drinking water and accommodation which can withstand the rigours of bad weather. In 2019 alone, the German Government has made available just under 50 million euros via partner organisations. Many German NGOs are also working in the region with the support of the German Government to create conditions which would allow the Yazidis to return.

Stabilisation as a basis for return

What is more, north‑west Iraq, where Sinjar region is located, is one of the priority regions for German stabilisation projects in Iraq. Alongside the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development is also providing transitional assistance. The German Government is cooperating closely here with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

Among other things, Germany is helping to fund the repair and restoration of destroyed infrastructure, for example streets and sewers, as well as schools and nurseries. What is more, the clearance of landmines left behind by IS is being funded. The stabilisation measures have created income for 7400 households.

Grants for microenterprises are intended to make it easier for those returning to make a fresh start while the aim of local dialogue measures is to foster peaceful coexistence. Furthermore, local farming in Sinjar is to be promoted in order to improve the prospects of the local population.

Support for stabilisation in northern Iraq is one component of the integrated approach pursued by Germany in the fight against the terror organisation “Islamic State” in Iraq. This includes the Bundeswehr’s deployment in Iraq which is helping to strengthen security structures on the ground. As part of the work of the Global Coalition against Da’esh in Iraq, the Bundeswehr is supporting capacity-building in the Iraqi armed and security forces both in Baghdad and Erbil. In agreement with other partners from the international community and at the request of and in agreement with the Iraqi Government and the Government of the Region of Kurdistan-Iraq, around 150 German soldiers are currently deployed in Iraq. The Bundeswehr is also involved in advising the Iraqi Ministry of Defence. Until 2018, its mandate also included training members of national minorities, including Yazidis.

Overcoming trauma and legal follow‑up

Measures to help the internally displaced deal with trauma are being funded, mainly in the Dohuk areas. Among other things, a training course for trauma therapists at the local university has been set up with the support of Baden‑Württemberg. In refugee camps, the German Government is supporting not only medical but also psychological care for severely traumatised women and children who were abducted by IS but were able to flee.

One key focus of German support are the projects on documenting the human rights violations and crimes against humanity committed by IS in Sinjar, including projects run by the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) and the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). Their work is helping the search for the missing, evidence‑gathering and the exhumation of mass graves – with the aim of making it possible to prosecute IS crimes at a later point in time. Moreover, the German Government is supporting the efforts of the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL (UNITAD) in Iraq.


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