Iraqi President, Barham Salih, announced on Sunday (7th April) that the presidency has submitted a draft of the Ezidi Female Survivors’ Law to the Council of Representatives for review and approval.
The Office of Iraqi President Barham Salih announced on Sunday (April 7) that the presidency has submitted a draft of the Ezidi Female Survivors’ Law to the Council of Representatives for review and approval.
The sweeping law aims to both recognize the significant harm done to Ezidi women by Islamic State (ISIS) militants and to provide for their care, housing, employment and education.
According to a statement from the President’s office, the draft law “aims to award financial and ethical compensation to these female survivors, to rebuild their lives and their towns, to facilitate their full rehabilitation, reintegration into society, to enable them to live in dignity and prosperity.”
In August 2014, ISIS militants attacked the Sinjar district, which was home to hundreds of thousands of Ezidis, whose syncretic religion incorporates many aspects of local faiths. Because of their beliefs, Ezidis were specifically targeted by the hardline Islamist militants for a campaign of horrific violation.
Thousands of Ezidi women were raped and murdered, with many of the survivors sold into sexual slavery and taken away to other parts of Iraq, Syria, and even further afield. Men and boys were systematically murdered, forced to work for the group, or coerced into becoming child soldiers.
It is estimated that 3,000 Ezidis were killed over a period of several days and 6,800 others were abducted.
Although several thousand Ezidis have been rescued over the last four-and-a-half years, another 3,000 remain missing.
The draft law clearly states that the crimes committed by ISIS militants constitute genocide and that it should be “defined as such in international forums and with organizations as well as in instituting criminal proceedings against the perpetrators.”
Moreover, it establishes August 3 as a nationally recognized day to highlight what happened to Ezidi women and authorizes the Ministry of Culture and other authorities to establish monuments and other permanent commemorations.
The draft legislation also stipulates that no one convicted of the crimes related to the abduction and enslavement of Ezidi women will ever be granted a pardon or amnesty and that law enforcement should continue to pursue those who are still at large and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.
In the years that have followed the attempted genocide of the Ezidi people, the Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional governments have come under criticism for failing to do enough to support Ezidis trying to rebuild their lives.
Sinjar remains one of the most unstable and deprived areas liberated from ISIS control, which has prevented many displaced Ezidis from returning.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad, who was abducted and raped by ISIS militants before escaping captivity, has called on both governments to do more to rebuild the Sinjar district and support programs that empower Ezidis.
If passed, the law will establish a General Directorate for the Affairs of Female Survivors within the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers, which will be based in Nineveh governorate where Sinjar district is located.
“The Directorate shall prepare statistics and data on female survivors, and provide safe, secure accommodation, and educational (as well as for their children) and employment opportunities to empower them to achieve the economic and social well-being,” the statement said.
“It will also provide for them necessary physical and psychological health care, and open health centers and clinics in their areas.”
Importantly, the Directorate will also address the legal status of the children that were fathered by ISIS militantsas the result of rape. This issue has roiled the Ezidi community, with many members unable to accept the children because of their fathers.
The Ezidi women will also receive a monthly salary, housing, access to education, and priority in public employment.
The Council of Representatives will now take up the legislation, but a vote has not yet been scheduled.