It has been three years since ISIS attacked the Mount Sinjar region in northwest Iraq, but the pain of those attacks is still strongly felt.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq and the UN Human Rights Office published a report Tuesday stating that the Iraqi government needs to do more to ensure that the thousands of Yazidi girls and women who were abducted receive justice and protection.
In 2014, ISIS launched its attack on Sinjar, trapping around 40,000 people. Most of those people were ethnic Kurds and members of the Yazidi religion, according to the Guardian. ISIS militants believe they are allowed to rape “non-believers,” and they have used this logic to rationalize their systematic rape of Yazidi women and girls, according to the New York Times.
The terrorist organization abducted 6,470 people when it attacked Sinjar; three years later, more than 3,000 have not been found, according to Iraqi officials. During its attack, ISIS looked specifically for unmarried women and girls over the age of eight, who they took to be sex slaves or forced to marry fighters, according to the Guardian.
Global Citizen campaigns to #LeveltheLaw to change laws that discriminate against girls and women. Take action here to advance gender equality and ensure that girls and women globally decide if, to whom, and when they get married.
Nadia Murad was one of the Yazidi women abducted and forced into sex slavery by ISIS militants. She is now a leading global spokesperson calling for the prosecution of ISIS for war crimes in the International Criminal Court, a campaign that Global Citizen supports.
The UN has condemned ISIS’s targeted attack on the Yazidis as genocide.
“ISIS has made no secret of its intent to destroy the Yazidis of Sinjar, and that is one of the elements that allowed us to conclude their actions amount to genocide,” the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said.
For many of the girls and women who have escaped or been rescued, there is still no peace.
“The physical, mental, and emotional injuries inflicted by ISIL are almost beyond comprehension,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a press release.
A doctor who has treated more than 1,000 Yazidi rape victims described the escaped and rescued girls and women to the New York Times as being “in severe shock and psychological upset.”
The UN report stressed the Iraqi government’s obligation, under both national and international human rights law, to ensure that the women and girls victimized by ISIS have access to justice and reparations. While the report recognized that the Iraqi government has taken steps toward protecting the rights of these women and children, it highlighted the failure of the system to adequately provide care and justice for the victims.
In particular, the report drew attention to victims’ continued struggles after being liberated. Many of the girls and women who were rescued or escaped have children fathered by ISIS soldiers. Both the mothers and children are stigmatized for their association — even if it was unwilling — with ISIS, but the children are especially vulnerable to rights violations, according to the report.
Since these children were born in ISIS-controlled areas and in captivity, most do not have birth certificates or other legal documentation that the government requires to recognize them and protect their rights.
However, these children are entitled to the same rights as any other Iraqi citizen, and those rights need to be recognized.
“The Government must ensure [these children] are protected from marginalisation and abuse, neither exposed to discrimination through references on their birth certificate that they were born out of wedlock or have a father linked to ISIL, nor left unregistered and at risk of statelessness, exploitation and trafficking,” the High Commissioner said.