Duhok, Iraq – It was midnight when Vian’s phone rang. A person with a shaky voice on the other end of the line said, “I miss my mom so much!” and then she burst into tears.
The person who called was Salwa Saido, 24, a survivor of the genocide carried out by ISIL (ISIS). She hails from the village of Tel Qasab in Sinjar, a district in northwestern Iraq that is the ancestral home of Iraq’s Yazidi community.
Like thousands of Yazidi women and girls, Salwa was captured along with her mother and two brothers after ISIL’s attack on Sinjar in August 2014. Although she is now free, after five years in captivity, her fate is unknown. mother, brother and sister. for this day.
Vian Darwish is an advocacy and outreach officer for Yazda, an NGO that advocates for the rights of religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq, including the semi-autonomous Kurdish region and Syria.
Assistance provided to survivors so far has come primarily from humanitarian organizations and the international community, active in areas with a high concentration of internally displaced Yazidis.
The government of Iraq has provided exceptional financial support to address urgent needs through the Yazidi Survivors Scholarship and welfare payments to a limited number of survivors. However, most remain without this type of support and continue to live in precarious conditions, which only deepens their trauma and vulnerability.
In March 2021, the Iraqi parliament passed a “Yazidi Survivors Support Act”, hailed as a landmark piece of legislation, the first of its kind in Iraq, whereby different acts of sexual violence in conflict are recognized as acts of genocide and placed at the center of the legislation.
The law provides for reparations to be paid to survivors of sexual violence and various other categories of victims. It includes provisions to address many of your needs through support in areas including physical and mental health, housing, livelihoods, employment, and resumption of education, among others.
However, the challenges to implementing the law are numerous, many of which stem from the current tense political situation and lack of budget allocations. The Survivors’ Affairs Directorate, the body created to implement this law, is seeking resources to initiate the application process that individual survivors must go through to benefit.
As they await justice and reparations after the genocide, the daily lives of the survivors are filled with painful memories and hopelessness.
This photo gallery was provided by the International migration organization (IOM).