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Rudaw

Culture & Art

Yezidis use kites, drones with cameras to document cultural loss for justice

By Rudaw 4/9/2018
Many of Shingal's homes, religious sites, and infrastructure were destroyed as ISIS was routed from Shingal during the 2014-2017 conflict. File photo: Rudaw
Many of Shingal's homes, religious sites, and infrastructure were destroyed as ISIS was routed from Shingal during the 2014-2017 conflict. File photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Part of genocide is the erasing of cultural or religious sites, so Yezidis are documenting ISIS's destruction of Shingal using kites and drones which carry cameras so the world can see the reality at an event in September in London.

Yazda, an NGO for Yezidis registered in the Kurdistan Region, sees the project as an attempt to document the 2014 genocide, as previous acts to obliterate their people were not recorded up to international standards. 

"Failing to document the atrocities in the extent in which they were committed, will make the justice part handicap in the future, it will also mean that the human society will not learn from this historical fact, and will not be part of a history," Yazda Executive Director Murad Ismael said.

Yezidis were considered "non-believers" and devil worshipers by ISIS's extreme ideology.

"We would like to show through documentation of religious sites how the Yazidi culture and identity was the target, and how much hate they had for our symbols," said Ismael.


Forensic Architecture, an independent research agency based at Goldsmiths, University of London, is showcasing the event for which Yazda and the Victoria and Albert Museum partnered.

"We have already documented locations of destroyed temples, locations where Yazidi captive women were kept, as well as locations of mass graves," explained Ismael.

The findings will be on display from September 4-23 at the UK pavilion at Somerset House in London, England. 

"The aim of this project is to gather evidence for potential future legal processes in which charges could be brought against members of [ISIS] for the 2014 genocide, including extensive destruction of cultural heritage perpetrated against the Yazidi people of the Sinjar area," the 'Kite survey project on show at London Design Biennale' stated on Tuesday.

Yezidis have received training in Turkey for aerial studies using drones and cameras attached to kites, as many areas remain uncleared and too dangerous for through on-the-ground inspections. 


"This stage of the project addresses the systematic destruction of heritage, focusing specifically on eight temples and mausoleums that were destroyed as part of the genocide against the Yazidis," added the event statement.

Inaction by local, international authorities not helpful

It's been four years and one month since the extremists rounded up Yezidis by the thousands in Shingal, killing men, kidnapping girls, boys, and women to be sold as slaves.

"We are deeply concerned about future of our people in their ancestral homeland..." cautioned Ismael

Iraq is highly politicized as it builds a new government. Shingal is a disputed or Kurdistani area claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad.

"While the two governments remain at discord, a full return will be impossible," said Ismael.

Some wonder if this will be the final genocide and Yezidis will become extinct from their native homeland of Shingal.

"Unless the Yazidi people return to their homes and live with dignity, the genocide shall be considered continued," said Ismael.

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