On 1 March, the Iraqi Parliament passed the Yazidi [Women] Survivors Law (YSL) to deliver long-awaited support not only for Yazidi women, but other ethno-religious survivors targeted by the ISIL extremist group, when it occupied large swathes of Iraq from 2014-2017.
“This law represents one concrete step taken by the Government of Iraq in the implementation of the Joint Communiqué on the Prevention and Response to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence signed in 2016, which calls for the provision of services, livelihood support and reparations for survivors of sexual violence”, said Pramila Patten at the online meeting.
The new law officially recognizes the genocide orchestrated against Yazadis, establishes a framework for financial and other concrete reparations, and provides redress.
The way forward
Ms. Patten made three recommendations to ensure the law is effectively implemented, beginning with ensuring that the Iraqi Government heeds the voices of survivors and civil society from all groups impacted by ISIL’s reign of terror.
“This Law is survivor-centred, and its implementation must be as well”, she underscored.
Secondly, the Special Representative stressed that under the law, applications for reparations “must be accessible to all eligible survivors, including those in third countries”, and must include maximum flexibility in submitting applications in person, online, or with the assistance of a third party or organization.
And finally, the Government must allocate a budget for the law and commit to making it “a vital part of Iraq’s reconstruction”, said she.
“Delivering assistance to victims of genocide, which included widespread and systematic sexual violence, is a solemn, moral obligation for the global community”, concluded Ms. Patten.
Don’t blame the victims
“Victims are not to blame for sexual violence”, Nobel Laureate and UN Goodwill Ambassador for Dignity, Nadia Murad, told the meeting. Her NGO, Nadia’s Initiative, is aiming to sustainably rebuild the Yazidi homeland of Sinjar in northern Iraq, where many women were sold into sexual slavery and trafficked by ISIL fighters.
“An important part of ending conflict-related sexual violence is showing that we value the human rights and dignity of survivors”, she added.
The new law represents a milestone not only for recognizing and providing remedies for the suffering of Yazidis and others terrorized by ISIL, and also puts Iraq in the small category of States prepared to take action to specifically address the rights and needs of the survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.
Discussions over implementing it, include taking into account institutional infrastructure, sustainability, financing and compliance with standards and best practices.
“Yazidi survivors cannot wait another seven years for support”, said Ms. Murad. “Their survival and wellbeing depend on acknowledgement and amends for what they survived”.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been working with the Iraqi Government and other partners, including ISIL survivors, on issues ranging from immediate humanitarian assistance and durable solutions to end protracted displacement, to community-building.
IOM Deputy Director General, Amy Pope, stressed that reparations and justice are necessary to heal survivors.
“To move forward, victims and their communities seek recognition of their suffering and justice and accountability for the crimes that were inflicted upon them”, she said.
The IOM official noted that while Iraq has made significant progress in adopting the law, its timely and effective implementation is crucial.
© UNICEF/Gilbertson VII Photo