How Effective Is Iraq’s Law Protecting Yazidi Women?

Written by Esha Ali

Edited by Mizla Shrestha, Hannah Fuchs, and Juliette Draper

Since 2003, Iraq has been inexorably decimated by conflict and insecurity, the rich, lush landscape transformed into a cataclysmic battleground within a short period of time. When the self-declared Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as the Daesh) invaded Iraq in 2014, eventually gaining control of the northern part of the country, regional forces, including Iranian troops, joined the Iraqi army, local tribes, and the Kurdish Peshmerga, in taking back their territories.[1] Slowly, Iraq began reclaiming its territories from ISIL from 2015 to 2017, which eventually led the Iraqi government to declare victory over the Islamic State in December of 2017. Despite this victory, Iraq was in the worst state it had ever been in, with underlying sectarian tensions among Sunni and Shiite groups threatening the overall stability of the government.[2] Additionally, roughly two million people remained internally displaced from the nearly four-year-long war, enunciating the notion that the aftereffects of the war remain much of a problem today as they had back then.[3] Ultimately, our responsibility must turn to directing resources to the Yazidi survivors, amongst other ethnic minority groups, to begin rectifying the trauma and adversity they had to endure as a consequence of the war.

One of the aftereffects of the war was the suffering the Yazidi had to go through, as, throughout the war, ISIL had “waged a genocidal campaign primarily against the Yazidi,” targeting them and other minorities, seeking to erase their presence from the country.[4] One of the largest attacks of their genocidal campaign began on August 3, 2014, when ISIL launched an attack against the Yazidi in Sinjar, killing thousands of men in the process.[5] In that same campaign, ISIL abducted boys to transform them into child soldiers, whereas the girls and women were made into sex slaves; 3,000 women and girls are still deemed to be missing today as a result of this operation.[6] Throughout this war, ISIL targeted many religious minorities, including Muslim minorities, to annihilate “religious pluralism” and establish a purely Islamic state devoid of the religious minorities that have occupied Iraq longer than ISIL has.[7] The atrocities committed by the ISIL were damaging long after the attacks had taken place, and it was clear that action had to be taken to address this humanitarian crisis.

Thus, an alliance of 31 Iraqi non-governmental organizations (NGOs), The Coalition for Just Reparations (C4JR), took the lead in repairing the harm that ISIL afflicted on the survivors. One outcome of this alliance was the amendment of the Yazidi [Female] Survivors Law (YSL) No. 8. This landmark bill was passed by the Iraqi Parliament on March 1, 2021, stipulating a series of reparation benefits for survivors of ISIL, specifically for Yazidi women and girls who had endured and ultimately survived conflict-related sexual violence during the war.[8] Primarily, this new law formally recognized the acts of genocide perpetrated against the Yazidi, Turkmen, Christian, and Shabak communities, and established a framework to mandate financial support for the survivors and other reparations that were needed.[9]

Furthermore, under this new law, it was stressed that reparations must be accessible to all survivors, including those residing in third-world countries. Essentially, eligible survivors must have access to applications for reparations under the law, and there needs to be flexible options in where the survivors can submit the applications in-person, online, or with the assistance of a third party or organization.[10] Moreover, this law, as Pramila Patten, who currently serves as the United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, said at an online meeting on September 30, 2021, is a “concrete step taken by the Government of Iraq in the implementation of the Joint Communiqué on the Prevention and Response to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence.”[11] The Joint Communiqué was signed in 2016 to ultimately “address the critical issue of conflict-related sexual violence in Iraq.”[12] In addition, Ms. Patten stated that, as a part of Iraq’s reconstruction of the war, the Iraqi government needs to allocate budgets necessary for YSL (in its new budgetary cycle after the Federal election) to be an effective law that will aid survivors most affected by ISIL’s violence.[13] Ultimately, Ms. Patten says, “... delivering assistance to victims of genocide, which included widespread and systematic sexual violence, is a solemn, moral obligation for the global community” and Iraq as a whole.[14] Accordingly, directing attention and resources to YSL is an obligatory matter to begin redressing the horrors and traumatic experiences the Yazidi women and children, amongst other ethnic minority groups, had to endure at the onslaught of the war.

Now, a critical question, evoked by many human rights organizations, including members of the Yazidi Survivors Network and Shabak and Turkmen survivors, aims to determine how effective YSL has been since the earlier adaptation of the law this year. Unfortunately, not much progress has been made in improving YSL and assisting survivors.[15] Overall, the legislation itself has proved to be fruitless, and provisions within the law have not been implemented to the greatest extent as required. There were necessary regulations that were sought to be executed by mid-June of 2021 by the Iraqi Council of Ministers, and, regrettably, they have not been carried out yet.[16] Additionally, C4JR had written critical recommendations to the Iraqi Council of Ministers, encouraging them to adopt a survivor-centered approach by upholding the confidentiality of the survivors and prioritizing their overall well-being.[17] C4JR also suggested that, when determining the monthly salary of the survivors, the vulnerability of the individual must be taken foremost into account “as the main evaluative criterion.”[18] Unfortunately, none of the comprehensive recommendations put forth by C4JR were implemented by the Iraqi Council of Ministers and instead were largely ignored. As a consequence, the disregard of these recommendations further deteriorated the humanitarian crisis, as many survivors aren’t receiving the necessary psychosocial support and medical services that are needed for their declining mental health. As the recommendations outlined above are based on a survivor-centered approach, the rights and needs of the survivors must guide all of the YSL implementation efforts.[19]

To delay the YSL is to prolong the trauma of survivors, their families, and the affected communities. Despite Patten’s statements during the online meeting in September, much skepticism regarding the implementation of YSL exists, as many of the affected survivors feel like they are, once again, being left out and abandoned by the Iraqi government. Unfortunately, YSL has not been largely effective, and much needs to be done in addressing the mass genocide that ISIL has committed against the Yazidi and other minority religious groups. Simply acknowledging that a genocide has occurred is not sufficient means to address it. Instead, the Iraqi Council of Ministers must listen and adhere to the comprehensive proposals made by C4JR and the suggestions that Ms. Patten has outlined above, as the recommendations will be an ultimate step in the right direction to ensuring peace and security for survivors and their families.


 

[1] Political Instability in Iraq, ᴄꜰʀ.ᴏʀɢ (Oct. 28, 2021), https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/political-instability-iraq.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Yazidi Women Survivors Law Ensuring Effective Reparations Program In Iraq, U.N. Dᴏᴄ (2021).

[5] Dr. Ewelina U Ochab, Iraq Adopts New Law To Assist Survivors Of The Daesh Genocide, ꜰᴏʀʙᴇꜱ (Mar. 4, 2021, 4:22 PM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewelinaochab/2021/03/04/iraq-adopts-new-law-to-assist-survivors-of-the-daesh-genocide/?sh=305becf5156c.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Rep. of the International Organization for Migration on “Yazidi Survivors in Germany and Iraq’s Reparation Program: ‘I want for us to Have a Share in Iraq,’” U.N. Migration (2021).

[9] Media Statement, Cᴏᴀʟɪᴛɪᴏɴ ғᴏʀ Jᴜsᴛ Rᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛɪᴏɴs, Six months after adoption of the Law on Yazidi Female Survivors no tangible progress has been made toward implementation (Sept. 1, 2021). , https://c4jr.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/01092021_C4JR-Media-Statement-ENGLISH.pdf.

[10] Remarks of SRSG Patten at the event “The Yazidi Women Survivors Law and Ensuring an Effective Reparations Programme in Iraq,” Uɴɪᴛᴇᴅ Nᴀᴛɪᴏɴs (Sept. 30, 2021), https://www.un.org/sexualviolenceinconflict/statement/remarks-of-srsg-patten-at-the-event-the-yazidi-women-survivors-law-and-ensuring-an-effective-reparations-programme-in-iraq-30-september-2021/.

[11] Iraq: ‘Moral obligation’ to ensure justice for Yazidi and other survivors of ISIL crimes, Uɴɪᴛᴇᴅ Nᴀᴛɪᴏɴs (Sept. 30, 2021), https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/09/1101852.

[12] Güley Bor, Yazidi Survivors in Germany and Iraq’s Reparation Programme: “I want for us to have a share in Iraq,” ɪɴᴛ’ʟ ᴏʀɢ. ꜰᴏʀ ᴍɪɢʀᴀᴛɪᴏɴ (2021), https://www.un.org/sexualviolenceinconflict/wp-content/uploads/joint-communique/join-communique-of-the-republic-of-iraq-and-the-united-nations-on-prevention-and-response-to-crsv/Joint_Communique_of_the_Govt_of_Iraq_and_UN_9_2016_ENG.pdf.

[13] Iraq: ‘Moral obligation’ to ensure justice for Yazidi and other survivors of ISIL crimes, ɴᴇᴡꜱ.ᴜɴ.ᴏʀɢ (Sept. 30, 2021), https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/09/1101852.

[14] Uɴɪᴛᴇᴅ Nᴀᴛɪᴏɴs, supra note 10

[15] Id.

[16] Media Statement, Coalition For Just Reparations, Six months after adoption of the Law on Yazidi Female Survivors no tangible progress has been made toward implementation (Sept. 1, 2021), https://c4jr.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/01092021_C4JR-Media-Statement-ENGLISH.pdf.

[17] Id.

[18] Key Recommendations to the Iraqi Council of Ministers for Implementing Regulations of the Yazidi [Female] Survivors Law, ᴄᴏᴀʟ. ꜰᴏʀ ᴊᴜꜱᴛ ʀᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛɪᴏɴꜱ (2021), https://c4jr.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/C4JR-Rec-to-CoM-ENG.pdf.

[19] Id.

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