On August 3, 2014, Da’esh attacked Sinjar and launched a campaign of genocide and crimes against humanity against minority communities in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. More than seven years later, 200,000 Yazidis remain internally displaced, and of the 6,417 Yazidis kidnapped, almost 2,760 are still unaccounted for. The chronic absence of security is affecting humanitarian assistance, justice mechanisms, law enforcement and government affairs, infrastructure, strategic development, and the geopolitical positioning of Sinjar. The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program collaborated with Yazda and The Zovighian Partnership to convene a launch of the publication, “Collapsed security threatens the future of Yazidis & minorities in Sinjar.” The panel explored the security challenges and obstructions to long-term stability and discuss suggested policies for immediate action by national and International stakeholders.
Insecurity in Sinjar
Jennifer Gavito, who serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Press and Public Diplomacy and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq, opened the event by characterizing Sinjar as “an insecure, unstable environment that inhibits or prevents access by humanitarian actors, reconstruction actives, and basic governance”. Sinjar faces chronic and immediate threats to its security, which have resulted in the displacement of the Yazidi community and other minority groups. Lynn Zovighian, Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Zovighian Partnership stated, “There is nothing else we can ask for if we do not get security right, security is the prerequisite for any other measures in Sinjar.” Nadine Maenza, President of the International Religious Freedom Secretariat, emphasized this point, adding that insecurity results in a lack of basic services and humanitarian support, which forces Yazidis to leave Sinjar. The window for action is closing; Haider Elias, Co-founder and President of Yazda noted, stressing that the threat of Da’esh returning to Sinjar remains.
The Sinjar agreement, signed in October 2020 by Iraq’s federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government, was a welcome step in the right direction, authorities did not consult with Sinjaris before or during negotiations. The agreement therefore cannot be implemented without robust buy-in from the local community, including those displaced by conflict. DAS Gavito threw her support behind expanding the role of Sinjaris in the implementation of this agreement, adding that the, “reconstruction, security, and overall stability of Sinjar are critical to the recovery of the Yazidi community and a priority for the United States”. Maenza echoed this sentiment and argued US support will be critical to achieving peace and security.
The path forward
Elias emphasized the need for the international community to pressure the Iraqi government on behalf of the people of Sinjar and to provide them with much needed security and financial support. The lack of political will to invest in Sinjar is seen as a major obstacle to ameliorating the conditions on the ground that force Yazidis into displacement. The Iraqi government lacks funding to enhance local law enforcement and capacity-building in Sinjar. The report calls for the creation of a taskforce to monitor the security of Sinjar and ensure accountability; this task force should be designed to include Sinjaris in decision-making processes, as well. Finally, Elias highlighted the need for a human rights approach to address the concerns of people who have thus far been unable to return to their homeland. Maenza noted Sinjar is not a post-conflict environment, rather continues to be subject to militarization. Therefore, humanitarian assistance, public safety, and agriculture, among other life sustaining needs, must be prioritized to see progress in rebuilding.
Zovighian concluded by stressing the situation is time-critical as the “breakdown” of Sinjar is “speeding up.” According to Elias, “The genocide is ongoing; it is a human rights issue.”
Middle East Program
The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform U.S. foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Read more
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