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Yazidi campaigner Nadia Murad wins joint 2018 Nobel Peace Prize with Congolese Doctor Denis Mukwege.

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Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad: Nobel Peace Prize winners

Heroes of the People.

Congolese doctor, Yazidi activist win Nobel Peace Prize for combating sexual violence

Reuters Reports,

They were awarded the prize for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said.

“Denis Mukwege is the helper who has devoted his life to defending these victims. Nadia Murad is the witness who tells of the abuses perpetrated against herself and others,” it said in its citation.

“Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.

Mukwege heads the Panzi Hospital in the eastern Congolese city of Bukavu. Opened in 1999, the clinic receives thousands of women each year, many of them requiring surgery from sexual violence.

Murad is an advocate for the Yazidi minority in Iraq and for refugee and women’s rights in general. She was enslaved and raped by Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq, in 2014.

“Rape in war has been a crime for centuries. But it was a crime in the shadows. The two laureates have both shone a light on it,” said Dan Smith, Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

“Their achievements are really extraordinary in bringing international attention to the crime,” he told Reuters.

Mukwege, a past winner of the United Nations Human Rights Prize and the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize, performed surgery on scores of women after they had been raped by armed men, and he campaigned to highlight their plight. He also provides HIV/AIDS treatment as well as free maternal care.

Although the Second Congo War, which killed more than five million people, formally ended in 2003, violence remains rampant, with militias frequently targeting civilians.

The hospital has also been the subject of threats, and in 2012 Mukwege’s home was invaded by armed men who held his daughters at gunpoint, shot at him and killed his bodyguard.

Shortly before that attack, he had denounced mass rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the impunity for it in a speech at the United Nations.

“He has risked his life to help women survive atrocity,” said SIPRI’s Smith.

Mukwege was in the operation room when he was told the news, Belgian broadcaster RTBF reported on Friday.

The Region adds some details about Murud,

Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a 25-year-old Iraqi woman of the Yazidi faith escaped Islamic State sex slavery after three months of captivity and has been advocating for the end of human trafficking ever since.

She was abducted from Kocho near Sinjar, an area home to about 400,000 Yazidis, and held by Islamic State in Mosul where she was repeatedly tortured and raped. She escaped three months later, reaching a refugee camp, then making her way to Germany.

Islamic State militants consider the Yazidis to be devil-worshippers. The Yazidi faith has elements of Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Islam. Most of the Yazidi population, numbering around half a million, remain displaced in camps inside the autonomous entity in Iraq’s north known as Kurdistan.

After escaping in 2014, Taha described her experience of torture and rape at the United Nations in December 2015 and pleaded to the 15-member Security Council to wipe out the militant group.

At least 9,900 of Iraq’s Yazidis were killed or kidnapped in days following Islamic State attack in 2014, according to the first study which aimed to document the number of Yazidis affected. The study could be used as evidence in trial over IS for the crimes of genocide.

About 3,100 Yazidis were killed – with more than half shot, beheaded or burned alive – and about 6,800 kidnapped to become sex slaves or fighters, according to the report published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine in May.

In August 2014, Islamic State militants launched an assault on the Yazidi religious community’s heartland in Sinjar, northern Iraq.

Murad and her attorney Amal Clooney appeared at a United Nations event in March 2017 to appeal for that the crimes of Islamic State militants to be investigated and perpetrators prosecuted. She criticized the international body for inaction.

In September 2016 Murad was appointed the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. She received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought along with Lamiya Aji Bashar, another Yazidi woman, in December 2016.

Murad’s intensely moving book, The last girl : my story of captivity and my fight against the Islamic State is available from Suffolk LIbraries.

Image result for the last girl book yazidi

I read it last month.

The book explains the Yazidi society, their poverty, – she fought hard to get an education – their culture, and their loves. The  ancient beliefs of their religion, including the Peacock angel, are  recounted with dignity.

It is a work of searing honesty.

The conflicts and persecution from which the largely Kurdish speaking Yazidi community have suffered are long-standing.

In modern times these have ranged from the state of fear under the Baathist regime, their difficult relations with neighbouring Muslim Arab villagers, to the fighting after the US-led occupation ended and Daesh rose.

The New York Times summarises,

In August 2014 Islamic State militants besieged her village of Kocho in northern Iraq. They executed nearly all the men and older women — including Murad’s mother and six brothers — and buried them in mass graves. The younger women, Murad among them, were kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. Raped, tortured and exchanged among militants, 21-year-old Murad finds an escape route when she is sold to a jihadist in Mosul who leaves a front door unlocked. She flees into Kurdistan by posing as the wife of a Sunni man, Nasser, who risks everything to escort her to safety.

The review concludes,

“I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine,” Murad concludes. Despite recent gains against ISIS in Iraq, many Yazidis still remain in captivity. As a story that hasn’t yet ended, “The Last Girl” is difficult to process. It is a call to action, but as it places Murad’s tragedy in the larger narrative of Iraqi history and American intervention, it leaves the reader with urgent, incendiary questions: What have we done, and what can we do?

 

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

October 5, 2018 at 12:24 pm

Yazidi female fighters, Charlottesville: ‘Unite against fascism

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Image result for yazidi female fighters unite against fascism

Members of the Yazidi Sinjar Women’s Units (YJŞ) currently fighting the Islamic State in its self-declared capital Raqqa, have sent an exclusive photograph to The Region in which they commemorate Heather Heyer, the anti-fascist activist killed in Charlottesville.

The four women are seen in the photograph making victory signs and holding two messages written in black ink on white paper in front of a YJŞ flag and poster of imprisoned Kurdistan Worker’s party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan. One of the messages reads, ‘R.I.P Heather Heyer,’ while the other states, ‘Unite against fascism,’ with #Charlottesville written to the side.

In a short statement sent to The Region along with the photograph, the women said they were deeply affected by Heather Heyer’s death and called her “a martyr.”

“As women who have suffered at the hands of Daesh [ISIS] we know well the dangers that fascist, racist, patriarchal and nationalist groups and organisations pose. Once again men of this mind-set, this time in America, have martyred a woman, Heather Heyer, who was resisting against the division and destruction of communities.”

Thirty-two -year-old Heather Heyer was killed after a vehicle driven by white-supremacist James Alex Fields Jr., rammed into a group of counter protestors demonstrating against a “Unite the Right” rally organised by white nationalist and far-right groups in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The statement went on to say that women across the world had stood with the Yazidis following the Islamic State attack on Sinjar in August 2014 – during which thousands of women belonging to the minority religious group were killed and kidnapped – and that now Yazidi women were “organised and strong enough to fight back.”

“We believe that Heather Heyer’s struggle is our struggle and that the fight against fascism is a global battle. For this reason, we are calling on women around the world to unite against fascism and put an end to terrorist groups like Daesh and those made from the same cloth that kill women like Heather.”

The YJŞ was established in October 2015 to “protect the Yazidi population” according to the group’s founding document. The all-female group is allied to the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBŞ), which was trained by the PKK, and adheres to the ideology of its imprisoned leader Ocalan.

The Region.

From the Kurdish Question. 12.7.17.

Three internationalist volunteers of the People’s Defense (Protection) Unit (YPG) have been killed in clashes with the jihadist Islamic State (ISIS) group in Raqqa, northern Syria.

Briton Luke Rutter (Soro Zinar), 22, and Americans Robert Grodt (Demhat Goldman), 28, and Nicholas Alan Warden (Rodi Deysie), 29, lost their lives in battles on 5-6 July.

The YPG released a statement sending condolences to the families of the men and said they had “fought bravely against Daesh [ISIS] fascism and terrorism.”

The YPG released videos of the men’s final messages and photos on its Facebook page. (Click the names below to watch the videos.)

Demhat Goldman

Soro Zinar

Rodi Deysie

Since the Rojava Revolution and fight against ISIS hit global headlines hundreds of international volunteers have joined YPG/YPJ ranks. With the death of the three volunteers, the number of international volunteers killed in battle has gone up to 28.

List of International Volunteers killed in action in Rojava-Democratic Federation of Northern Syria
1. Ashley Johnston 23 Feb 2015 AUS
2. Kosta Scurfield 2 Mar 2015 UK/GR
3. Ivana Hoffman 7 March 2015 GER
4. Mihemed Kerim 5 May 2015 IRAN
5. Keith Broomfield 3 Jun 2015 USA
6. Arnavut Karker. 26 June 2015 AL
7. Reece Harding 27 June 2015 AUS
8. Kevin Jochim 6 Jul 2015. GER
9. John Gallagher 4 Nov 2015 CAN
10. Gunter Hellstern 23 Feb 2016 GER
11. Mario Nunes 3 May 2016 POR
12. Jamie Bright 25 May 2016 AUS
13. Levi Jonathan Shirley 14 July 2016 USA
14. Dean Carl Evans 21 July 2016 UK
15. Martin Gruden 27 July 2016 SLO
16. Firaz Kardo 3 August 2016 SWE/EGYPT
17. Jordan MacTaggart 3 August 2016 USA
18. William Savage 10 Aug 2016 USA
19. Michael Israel 24 Nov 2016 USA
20. Anton Leschek 24 Nov 2016 GER.
21. Ryan Lock 21 Dec 2016 UK
22. Nazzareno Tassone 21 Dec 2016 CAN
23. Paolo Todd 15 January 2017 USA
24. Albert A Harrington 25 January 2017 USA
25. Merdali Süleymanov 23 April 2017 KAZ
26. Robert Grodt 5 July 2017 USA
27. Nicolas A Warden 5 July 2017 USA
28. Luke Rutter 5 July 2017 UK

Written by Andrew Coates

August 15, 2017 at 12:07 pm

Islamic State/Isis Accused of Attempted Genocide by United Nations.

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(Reuters) – The campaign of Islamic State militants against Iraq’s Yazidi minority may be attempted genocide, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for human rights Ivan Simonovic said on Tuesday.

“Facts are indicating that actions against Yazidis may amount to attempted genocide,” he told a small group of reporters at theUnited Nations after returning from a recent visit to Iraq.

Simonovic was speaking as Islamic State, often referred to as ISIL or ISIS, advanced on Iraq’s Sinjar mountain, tightening a siege of thousands of stranded Yazidis, who called on the United States and its allies to act to avert more bloodshed.

Thousands of Yazidis have been shot, buried alive or sold into slavery by Islamic State militants, who regard them as devil-worshippers.

U.S. President Barack Obama authorized air strikes in Iraq in August, citing the duty to prevent an impending genocide of Yazidis at the hands of Islamic State militants after they overran a vast swathe of northern Iraq.

The 1948 U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as an intent to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethical, racial or religious group.

The convention says this can be done by killing members, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members, deliberately inflicting conditions on the group calculated to bring about its physical destruction, preventing births within the group or forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Simonovic said that Islamic State was forcing Yazidis to either convert to Islam or be killed with the intent of destroying the religious group.

Islamic State originally attacked the area around Sinjar, in northwestern Iraq, in August. A renewed assault began at dawn on Monday, when militants driving Humvees and civilian vehicles attacked several Yazidi residential compounds, forcing the Yazidis to retreat up the mountain.

The same story is now running in the French media.

L’ONU accuse l’EI de « tentative de génocide » des yézidis en Irak (le Monde)

This is what the Islamists have also done (Huffington Post),

Islamic State fighters have captured, enslaved and sold Yazidi women and children, and claim the act is justified in Islam to prevent men from feeling “tempted” by other, non-enslaved women.

According to a piece in the group’s full-colour magazine, which is published in English and evidently aimed at a Western audience, confirms the long-rumoured atrocities committed by the group in Iraq, where Yazidi women have reported being kidnapped, sold for a few dollars and repeatedly raped.

islamic state

The Islamic State’s magazine

Anyone opposing slavery in such circumstances is not a Muslim, the piece says. “Enslaving the families of the kuffār [non-believers] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Sharia that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Qur’an… and thereby apostatizing from Islam.”

A Human Rights Watch report, which came out on Sunday, claimed hundreds of Yazidi men, women and children from Iraq are being held captive in makeshift detention facilities by the group.

Yazidi families are now sold by the Islamic State soldiers.” It added, “the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Sharia amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations.”

The report follows two UN officials issuing a joint statement on the “barbaric acts” of sexual violence committed by ISIS fighters.

“We condemn, in the strongest terms, the explicit targeting of women and children and the barbaric acts the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ has perpetrated on minorities in areas under its control, and we remind all armed groups that acts of sexual violence are grave human rights violations that can be considered as war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Nickolay Mladenov, special representative of the UN secretary-general for Iraq and Zainab Hawa Bangura, special representative of the secretary-general on sexual violence in conflict, said.

The statement, reported by Newsweek, cited evidence of “savage rapes” being used as weapons of war against women and teenage boys and girls belonging to the Yazidi, Christian, Turkomen and Shabak minority groups in Iraq.

Academic and Middle East expert Haleh Esfandiari has said IS allow their followers to rape captured girls and women as a “reward”.

“ISIS has received considerable world attention for its savage beheadings, executions of captured soldiers and men in conquered towns and villages, violence against Christians and Shiites, and the destruction of non-Sunni shrines and places of worship,” she blogged for the Wall Street Journal.

“But its barbarity against women has been treated as a side issue. Arab and Muslim governments, vocal on the threat ISIS poses to regional stability, have been virtually silent on ISIS’s systemic degradation, abuse, and humiliation of women.

“To the men of ISIS, women are an inferior race, to be enjoyed for sex and be discarded, or to be sold off as slaves.”

Written by Andrew Coates

October 22, 2014 at 12:03 pm