Four years ago, on 3 August 2014, Daesh launched a violent attack against Yazidis in Sinjar. Daesh fighters killed hundreds, if not thousands of men. The victims’ mass graves continue to be discovered to this day. As part of the same campaign, Daesh fighters abducted boys to turn them into child soldiers and women and girls for sex slavery. More than 3,000 women and girls are still missing and their fate is unknown.
Four years later, 98% of the territories previously held by Daesh in Syria and Iraq have been recovered. The self-proclaimed caliphate is disappearing from the region and the atrocities committed by Daesh have fallen from the spotlight as the world focuses on other atrocities committed elsewhere. This is how it works. We preoccupy our coverage of the issues with the success of a military win against Daesh. In doing so, we miss the elephant in the room: what about those that were killed, those who were abducted, those who are still missing? Their stories are not over yet. Their stories are still waiting to be heard.
Yet, by failing to realise the story is not over, we provide fertile ground for similar atrocities to happen again. Daesh may have been defeated in the region, but the ideology that drives the violence is far from defeated and will emerge again once conditions allow. We need to address the underlying issues.
Four years ago, and a few days after the attack on Sinjar, Daesh also attacked the Ninevah Plains and forced over 120,000 people to flee for their lives in the middle of the night. They destroyed the area and took control of it for over two years. It was liberated during the second half of 2016. Today, almost two years later, just a third of the families that used to populate the Nineveh Plains prior to 2014 attack have returned. Only 35% of the buildings are restored.
Four years ago, we promised to do more, to help the survivors. To bring Daesh to justice. To ensure that such mass atrocities do not happen again. Four years later, we have not made good on any of these promises.
The survivors of the Daesh genocide continue to be let down. The humanitarian assistance is lacking in many places. The survivors wish to escape the region through fear of further persecution in the future. They are not being granted asylum, they are not being resettled. Indeed, some Yazidi survivors continue to be denied asylum in many countries, including the UK. Even visiting visas are rejected for those who are invited to attend conferences where their voices could be heard. The survivors who continue to live in the region, have not been provided with the assistance they need. One example is the countless women and girls who are in urgent need of cognitive behavioral therapy or other PTSD-treatment.
The effort to bring Daesh to justice is underway but is still years away from achieving anything remotely close to what could be perceived as justice for the victims. The efforts to prevent similar atrocities from occurring in the future are inadequate. They neglect the religious nature of the atrocities (and the fact that Daesh has not yet been defeated). Indeed, the atrocities perpetrated by Daesh against Yazidis, Christians and other religious minorities in the region were committed because of the groups’ religious identities. Daesh wanted to destroy religious pluralism in the region and, in doing so, establish a purely Islamic state based on its perverted interpretation of Islam.
Why is the religious character of the atrocities so important? It is important because only by recognising the true nature of the atrocities, will it be possible to address the root causes. In doing so, we may be able to prevent similar atrocities from recurring. The response to the atrocities needs to be dependent upon the nature of the events and ideology of those that perpetrate the crimes. Mass atrocities that are perpetrated because of the religion of the persecuted group cannot, for example, be combated with weapons only. It is crucial to attack the very core of the ideology that caused the persecutor to turn their guns against the persecuted group. If the ideology is not eradicated, for example with religious teaching about tolerance, inclusion, diversity, interfaith dialogue and respect for dignity for humankind, we will not achieve a sustainable solution.
This piece was originally published here.