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Speech by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on the occasion of the recognition and commemoration of the genocide of the Yazidis

19.01.2023 - Speech

Today we are remembering what was done to your people, to your sisters, mothers, fathers, brothers, children. Commemorating this is also an obligation, an obligation not to wane in our efforts to look for those who have been abducted and remain missing, a figure estimated at 3000. Many of us have been in this region, myself included, and that is why for me this obligation not to wane in our efforts is the most important message today.

When I was there in one of the camps three years ago, a woman showed me her shattered mobile phone with photos of two girls on it, one about three and the other nine, and told me, “these are my daughters who could not be freed.” This woman was abducted, kept as a sex slave and had to endure the worst thing a woman, a mother, can go through. Her torturer said to her at some stage, “You can go and take your young son with you,” because he had got himself another woman. But her daughters had to stay.

This shattered mobile phone is an obligation not to wane in our efforts but to keep looking for all the girls who are now teenagers or young adults. I am thus so grateful that we here in the Bundestag are accepting this obligation today across party lines by calling this crime by its name: the genocide of the Yazidis.

For us it is an obligation not just to remember and to look for those who remain missing but also to continue to ask ourselves time and again as part and parcel of our shared foreign policy: what could we have done? What can we do to prevent future genocides?

As well as the shattered mobile phone, there is one sentence branded on my memory. It is also in Shirin’s book “I remain a daughter of the light”: “but you knew where we were.”

When thousands of women were herded into a school, GPS data was sent. Yes, we knew where they were. We knew where the women were. We should thus also ask ourselves: why did we not do anything?

All military matters are of course always issues which need to be weighed up. But did we fail to act because of the victims’ background or because they were women? This is a question I can’t answer, but for me it is important that we keep coming back to it to prevent such crimes in the future.

I would like to thank those of you who are here on the gallery today representing your people, Necla Mato, Jihan Alomar and so many others. Despite the horror – and I cannot imagine how you can find words to describe what you have suffered or what happens to you when your brother or father is shot before your very eyes – you have nevertheless spoken about this, you have given us and the world a wake-up call enabling us to make this decision together here in parliament today and to put a name to what was done to you: genocide committed against the Yazidis.

I would also like to express my thanks to others because it makes plain that politics needs individuals, individuals who have the courage to talk about their suffering, but also individuals who, in a parliament with more than 700 members, have the courage to say: we might not yet have a motion across party lines, perhaps in our parliamentary group differing opinions remain, and yet we speak out.

That is why I would like here to remember our late colleague Thomas Oppermann who, together with Volker Kauder and others, during the last legislative term – I was one of them, which is how I know – worked day in, day out to ensure that those who had been enslaved, children who could not return to their families, could be brought out.

I would also like to thank the Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg who seized the moment and went against those who said “but we can’t have a Land suddenly getting active”, responding that what was being done was about the most important thing politicians are responsible for: working to uphold humanity. I would like to thank those in Germany who were involved whether as activists, doctors or social workers, such as Düzen Tekkal and Jan Ilhan Kizilhan.

This decision today is not just a decision taken by politicians but one taken by our whole country. Germany as a society recognises the genocide suffered by the Yazidis. For that, I say thank you.

As a society, we have an obligation – and that is the task we have as politicians – to ensure that we do not just recognise this genocide but also bring about justice for the victims. That is also why it is so important to keep going, not to wane in our efforts in all the forums in our society.

It has already been mentioned that the judgement of the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court is so immensely important because the charge was not just terrorism but genocide, crimes against humanity, because the individual crimes suffered by the victims were heard and sentences imposed. This is a milestone in the global fight against impunity. And, to my mind, building on this, is also important. We together as a parliament, as the Federal Republic of Germany, can send a message here by continuing to push for the prosecution of these crimes at the International Criminal Court – to make clear that the focus is not on the perpetrators but above all else on justice for the victims so that genocide is not perpetuated through the generations; that is the third obligation we accept from the Yazidis.

We cannot undo this genocide. But we can ensure that the victims experience attain justice so the genocide is not passed on through the generations. Thank you very much.

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