by Martin Fowler
A year ago, on the one-year anniversary of ISIS’ callous murder of 5,000 Yazidi men and enslavement of 7,000 Yazidi women on Mount Sinjar, The Guardian asked its readers, “is Iraq becoming a forgotten humanitarian crisis?”
Today, on the two-year anniversary of the Sinjar Massacre, the answer is clear: the genocide perpetrated by ISIS against the Yazidi minority is already a forgotten humanitarian crisis. In a Newsweek op-ed, GJC Staff Attorney Grant Shubin urges the international community to address the Yazidi atrocity as genocide.
Driven from their homes by ISIS’ frequent attacks, 40,000 Yazidis found themselves trapped on the mountain in August 2014. ISIS killed thousands of Yazidi men and enslaved even more women; those who did not fall into ISIS’ hands faced severe food and water shortages.
In addition to ISIS’ mass killings, their sexual enslavement and rape of Yazidi women constitute genocide and these crimes are prosecutable under international humanitarian law.
Yet, as Shubin notes, the international community focuses on ‘counterterrorism’ – not genocide – in its approach to ISIS, despite ample evidence of the latter and a clear legal responsibility to act to end the genocide.
This collective inaction allows ISIS fighters to continue carrying out genocide with impunity and is an offense to victims of previous genocides, upon whose memories the international community pledged to react more forcefully.
The Yazidi genocide might be forgotten today, but in the future, people will remember our inaction as yet another inadequate and woeful response – a twenty-first century version of the response to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. But there is still time to change this story – to confront and act upon our responsibilities under international humanitarian law to protect human beings from genocide and prosecute those who commit such acts.