Today marks the fourth anniversary of the Yazidi genocide perpetrated by ISIS. Although the group has been defeated in Iraq, the devastating effects of its actions linger. Many Yazidis are still living in displacement camps in northern Iraq and continue to suffer socially, economically and psychologically.
In August 2014 hundreds of thousands of Yazidis were forced to abandon their homes and livelihoods in Sinjar, northern Iraq, after the area was attacked by ISIS militants. Those who were unable to escape faced forced religious conversion, enslavement, sexual violence and execution. Those who fled to Mount Sinjar were trapped without food, medicine or water, until they were later evacuated.
Although ISIS has now been defeated in Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Yazidis are still living in camps for internally displaced people in the north of the country. Most have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods. A return to Sinjar is not possible for the vast majority, as the area is still dangerous and lacking in basic services. Many are also afraid after the horrific violence of ISIS.
Farida lives in a camp with her husband and four of their children. When ISIS attacked in 2014 she and her children were captured. Her sons were forced to learn to read the Quran, and if they couldn’t they were beaten. Her three oldest children were taken from her.
“They were literally dragged from my arms – I tried to protect them, I was kicking the Daesh terrorists and doing everything I could but they took them. They beat me and attacked me for trying to protect my children.”
Farida’s daughter is still in captivity. She is one of thousands of Yazidi women and girls who remain missing. Farida does not know what has happened to her two sons. “It breaks my heart every single day,” she says.
People living in camps need long-term assistance to help them to rebuild their lives. They require access to healthcare: vaccinations to prevent epidemics, medication to treat chronic health conditions and psychological therapy for mental illness, which is common.
Continuing education is also important to ensure that children who have been displaced can prepare for their futures. Farida’s younger children are now able to attend school. She says “this is really helping them to overcome their experiences.”
Since the crisis unfolded in 2014, AMAR has been working on the ground across Iraq to provide healthcare and education in camps. It also runs the Escaping Darkness programme, which provides psychosocial care to women and girls who have escaped ISIS.
Dr Subhi works in an AMAR clinic in one of the camps. He sees more than 100 patients a day. “So many of them are missing relatives, living in terrible conditions and so their suffering just doesn’t end.”
Four years on, it is as important as ever that Yazidi people living in camps receive the support they need to help them rebuild their lives.
Your generous donations are helping us to deliver day-to-day essential aid and have enabled us to set up a health care centre in Khanke camp. Please help us to reach even more vulnerable families – your support makes all the difference.