Report by Peace in Kurdistan Women Alliance, 13 March, 2017:
The first International Conference for Ezidi women took place in Germany last weekend providing an opportunity for a diverse group of women to come together to discuss, in their mother tongue, the Ezidi genocide and its aftermath. The high-level conference gave a platform to an authoritative group of women, representing both those who had survived the genocide, and those whose expertise ranged from the ethnic, political, historical, and psychological aspects of what had occurred.
The Conference was organised by the Umbrella Organisation for Ezidi Women, the Kurdish Women’s Office for Peace, the Platform for Struggle for Women held in Captivity, and was supported by Peace in Kurdistan and many other European groups.
Patricia Sellers, Special Advisor to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court gave the keynote speech setting out the legal framework and drawing some parallels with the slave trade in the Americas. She said that as a descendent of slaves she could understand the effects of this, some 5 generations later. In highlighting a gendered perspective on genocide she made it clear that under the Genocide Convention, acts of rape and sexual slavery, as well as the transfer of children from one group to another, can amount to genocide
The main theme emerging from the 2 day conference was the connection between genocide and femicide. Originating in Latin America in the 1990s the concept of femicide describes genocidal acts against women because they are women, often with the political encouragement of the state. Women have been subject to genocide for over 5000 years but the only type of genocide recognised by the international legal system is one based on ethnicity. Therefore we have to rely on inter-sectionality in order for femicide to be captured by the current system. The conference decided to adopt August 3rd as an International Day of Struggle Against Femicide, in recognition of the Ezidi Femicide of that date.
Dr Anoush Hovhannisyan of Yerevan University said : what is common in genocides is that Sexual violence is used as an inevitable by product of war or as a weapon. We heard intensely moving testimony from a 16-year-old Ezidi girl who had escaped from so-called Islamic State, after 6 months of horrific sexual violence. She had also been forced to witness the execution of her father and had lost her brother before being taken captive. The session on recovering from trauma suggested two main ways forward for the women of Shengal, namely working together in the women’s movement in order to raise awareness of what had happened and the repercussions of it and secondly taking back control by joining one of the Shengal’s militias.
Setting out the geo-politcal context of the Ezidi Capital, Shengal, Rosa Burc of Bonn University, said that Democratic Confederalism could be the system under which genocide in the region could be prevented. Minorities are always disadvantaged within the state system , which can give rights but also take them away. Following the artificial division of lands by the Sykes-Picot line, different ethnic groups were pitted against each other. The disputed area of Shengal is strategically important, she said, because it is the gateway between Syria and Iraq; it is the connection for a united Kurdistan. It also sits close to massive oil fields in Zumar and the 11 billion cubic metres of water at the Mosul dam, so its importance is undisputed.
Daye Bihar, founder of the Shengal Women’s Council and witness of the genocide, spoke by video link as she was refused a visa to attend. She spoke for more than hour, powerfully and without notes, describing the horrors which had unfolded and how women had responded by getting trained and gaining the confidence to defend themselves against any future attacks. She spoke about the current attacks on Shengal emanating from within the KRG region which she described as a further betrayal by the KDP government.
Feleknas Uca, HDP MP and Ezidi by descent, called for Shengal to become an autonomous region, which would officially give it the authority to defend itself and to protect itself from further attacks.
The conference concluded with a set of demands and decisions:
– Initiation of efforts for an official recognition of the massacre and displacement of Êzidîs in Shengal as genocide at international level.
– Initiation of necessary procedures in order for light to be shed on the genocide started on August 3, for all the perpetrators be identified and for the UN and all other authorized international institutions to do their part for the prosecution of the perpetrators.
– Initiation of a campaign led by women in order for the prosecution of all powers and circles responsible for the Shengal genocide and formation of a coordination for this purpose.
– Recognition of August 3, the date when ISIS launched its genocidal attacks on Shengal, as the International Day of Struggle Against Femicide, and organization of events and activities every year for this purpose.
– Implementation of an effective struggle for the liberation of 3 thousand Êzidî women, girls and boys still held captive by ISIS.
– Recognition of Shengal Women’s Defense Units (Yekîneyên Jinên Şengalî-YJŞ) as the legitimate self-defense force of Êzidî women in Shengal through the acknowledgment of the fact that a society’s self-defense is the only way to prevent future genocides.
– Attainment of democratic autonomous region status by Shengal- one of the cultural, social and religious centers of Êzidî people- and implementation of local governance on the basis of democracy in consideration of the fact that the lack of Shengal’s people’s right to self-determination was one of the reasons behind the failure to prevent the genocide.
– Creation of the conditions for the Êzidî society in Shengal to live in their lands and provision of the support needed for Shengal’s reconstruction.
– Issuing a call for the Êzidîs that were forced to leave Shengal during and after the genocide to return to their lands.
– Provision of solidarity and support for the people of Shengal for an on-site resolution of their problems such as the trauma, psychological, social, economical, health and other problems caused by the war and massacre.
– Issuing a call in order for the UN to give a protection order for Shengal where Êzidîs have no trust left in external powers after the genocide, and in order for the UN to act to secure the Êzidî people’s political will, right to self-determination and self-defense.
– Inspection of the weapons the International Coalition gave to the KDP to fight ISIS by national and international authorities, and imposition of a sanction against the misuse of these weapons for other purposes. Issuing a warning particularly to Germany on this issue and condemnation of Germany for not providing visa for guests from Shengal that had been invited to the conference as speakers.
– Urging the international powers to send an independent investigation delegation to Shengal in order to investigate the tensions that rose on March 3, 2017, and to develop counter measures against further attacks.
– Êzidî people have been besieged by sovereign powers because of their faith and culture. The danger that threatens Êzidî people also surrounds the other peoples living in Nineveh. We call for the formation of an international circle of defense around the Êzidîs, Assyrians, Syriacs, Kakais, Turkmens, Shiites, Shabaks and Arabs living in the region for the protection of their cultures and faiths.