ISIS Yazidi Genocide and the Islamic State

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The Islamic State was created as a self-proclaimed caliphate by the Sunni militants who reinterpreted Islam in a way that it served their international holy war. Their fighters engage in suicide missions across Europe, regardless of whether they were born in the Middle East, North Africa or in Europe. The Islamic soldiers are recruited all over the world online and in Mosques (Humenberger 2018: 2-3). Many young people left their Western homes to join the Islamic State, as fighters or wives of fighters (Antunez 2016:1). 

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The caliphate was originally established in Iraq and Syria. The ultimate plan was to re-establish the plan used by the Ottoman Empire and spread the caliphate to Europe (Antunez 2016:2-7). Day to day life in the Islamic State was controlled under the strict Sharia law, which originated in the 8th century AD (Antunez 2016:2-7). After conquering parts of Iraq and Syria, the social structure of the state was modified in a way that served the holy war’s purpose. Led by the thoughts of a Sunni pure society, who mirrored the society from ancient times (Antunez 2016:2-7), ISIS carried out the attacks against humanity.

In August 2014, ISIS and its fighters set to conquer the Sinjar region of Iraq and to especially target the Yazidi minority that lived there. Records show that the region around Mount Sinjar is home to the majority of the world’s Yazidi population (Human Rights Council 2016:1). The attack resulted in thousands of Yazidis being displaced in neighbouring countries or even the European Union (Rukmini 2015). 

Those who were unable to escape suffered a terrible faith. Roughly estimated 10,000 people belonging to the Yazidi community never managed to escape the initial attack (Rukmini 2015). This paper will outline the events of the Sinjar massacre as well as subsequent events happening to those involved in the conflict, to clarify whether the gathered evidence can proclaim atrocities against Yazidi as genocide. To bring light to the opinions and reports, both academic papers and newspaper publications were used.

Many definitions of genocide have been proposed since 1959 (Jones 2017:23). There are a few common definition points that thread through all the conceptualizations. Genocide is a deliberate act committed by people in power who seek to exterminate members of a certain group or population, based solely on their membership in that group (Jones 2017:23-24). One of the most comprehensive definitions of genocide is by Jack Nusan Porter from 1982, which is as following:

“Genocide is the deliberate destruction, in whole or in part, by a government or its agents, of a racial, sexual, religious, tribal or political minority. It can involve not only mass murder, but also starvation, forced deportation, and political, economic and biological subjugation. Genocide involves three major components: ideology, technology, and bureaucracy/organization.” (Jones 2017:24)

Some of the other definitions also emphasize the point when the members of the weaker group are prevented to have children or when their children are taken away to be integrated into another group (Jones 2017:25). But one of the most recognizable features of genocide is that it is tainted with murder or synonymous with mass killings and liquidation of people (Jones 2017:26-27). 

However, the political or law-abiding background to the mass killings is less obligatory as a definition point (Jones 2017:23-27) because genocide can often occur between religious groups without the formal backing of the group in power, where it can even be denied for a long time, e.g. mass murder of an entire city’s Muslim men and boys in Bosnia (Jones 2017:65). When talking about colonial and imperial genocides, the focus has always remained on the destruction of indigenous people (Jones 2017:65), whose faith was to vanish or become so weak or isolated to be disabled to claim any power. Jones (2017:253) also emphasizes cases where entire populations were deliberately tortured, e.g. the genocide over the Yazidi population during ISIS. 

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