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Sinjar after the IS terror: How is the Federal Foreign Office supporting 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

19.01.2023 - Article

The IS terrorist organisation left behind complete devastation in Iraq. Yazidis in particular suffered under the IS reign of terror. Hundreds of thousands of them are still in refugee camps in northern Iraq. How can Germany help these people to live in freedom and safety?

The German Government is working with its international partners, the United Nations and the Iraqi Government on the ground to improve the living conditions of Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq. Via its partner organisation the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Federal Foreign Office is helping Yazidi survivors of the atrocities to claim reparations under the Yazidi Survivors Law. Since early October 2022, it has been possible for men and women to apply for reparations in Iraq under this act. Hopefully, it will also soon be possible for members of the diaspora here in Germany to apply, too.

Enabling Yazidis to return home

The Federal Foreign Office is helping the Iraqi state to enable displaced Yazidis to return home and to create prospects for the future. The Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) initiated by Germany and the 500 million euro loan from the German Government to Iraq are both intended to serve this purpose. The object and purpose of the funding for Iraq? The money will be used in Sinjar, for example, to repair electricity supply and streets or to rebuild sewers, schools and kindergartens. Iraqi authorities at provincial level will also be included in the planning and implementation of these projects.

For a life in freedom, security and dignity

The IOM Community Policing project, which is funded by the Federal Foreign Office, is also operating in numerous locations in Nineveh district, including Sinjar. With German support, representatives of municipalities and the security authorities meet to discuss urgent problems and find solutions. The aim is to foster trust in the security forces.

However, in many places it will not be possible to return and to reconstruct people’s home regions until booby-traps and mines have been cleared. IS left highly contaminated towns in its wake and deliberately set mines to further jeopardise the security situation and to make it more difficult for the displaced civilian population to return. Via UNMAS, the Federal Foreign Office is supporting landmine clearance throughout Iraq, but explicitly in the Sinjar region. 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.

Not least due to Germany’s engagement, it has been possible for almost five million internally displaced persons to return to their home regions since 2014.

How are the traumas experienced being dealt with?

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

Helping internally displaced persons in Iraq, including many Yazidis, to process the traumas they experienced is especially important. The Federal Foreign Office is providing funding for psychosocial support for victims, for example in the Dohok region via the Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights. And with the help of Baden-Württemberg, the local university has been able to launch its first degree course to train trauma therapists. The German Government is focusing in particular on children conceived as a consequence of their Yazidi mothers being raped in IS captivity. Germany is advocating that these children be integrated into the Yazidi community and is helping those affected with processing their traumas and with admission programmes.

The criminal investigation of IS crimes

In light of its own history, Germany believes in a special responsibility when it comes to the investigation of the gravest human rights violations and, to this end, is supporting the documentation and prosecution of the atrocities committed by IS. Accountability is a fundamental prerequisite for justice and durable peace in the Yazidi community’s home region of Nineveh and Sinjar. The Federal Foreign Office is supporting the work of the UNITAD (United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL) and that of other international partner organisations as they seek to gather evidence and exhume mass graves, as well as search for those missing.

Assistance for internally displaced persons and host communities

There are still 1.2 million internally displaced persons in Iraq, including many Yazidis. The Federal Foreign Office is providing humanitarian assistance in Iraq to help these people as well as the Iraqi communities which have taken in refugees. The Federal Foreign Office is working with international organisations (UNHCR, IOM) as well as the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. One concrete example is humanitarian assistance in the form of cash for internally displaced persons, refugees and returnees. This is being provided by the German Red Cross on behalf of the Federal Foreign Office across the country, including Nineveh and in particular Sinjar. Humanitarian need is the key criterion for the provision of assistance.

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