Yazda has provided emergency aid, including psychological care, to Yazidi women and girls upon their rescue. Photo: Yazda
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—The closure of Yazda, a Yezidi-focused rights organization by the local government in Duhok was illegal, a senior Kurdish official has told Rudaw English, while defending an earlier claim that the organization had been involved in “political activities” which violated regulations on NGO work.
Akram Jamo, director of the Kurdish Department of NGOs, said on Thursday that it is not up to the provincial government to close the offices of an NGO, explaining that his office was the sole authority to take such action based on court orders.
He said there was no such court ruling in this case, adding that his department’s legal team will inform the Kurdish authorities on this matter sometime today or the next business day.
Yazda said on Monday that security forces (Asayish) had shut down their Duhok office “for unknown reason,” and that “this includes all Yazda's humanitarian projects serving the Yazidi community.”
Jamo however backtracked on his previous claim that Yazda’s license had expired after the organization published a copy of its license clearly showing validity until the end of 2017.
Meanwhile, Jamo defended the position that Yazda was embroiled in political activity, such as releasing a statement in political language and accusing local authorities of treating Yezidis as “second-class citizens”.
International organizations must abide by local laws and their own bylaws a copy of which they have to send to the government’s department of NGOs, which Yazda violated by publishing a political statement, said Jamo.
For his part, Yazda’s executive director Murad Ismael told Rudaw English on Wednesday that the decision to close their office in Kurdistan was “not legal, not fair, and politically motivated.”
In a statement published Wednesday Yazda denied engaging in political activities or that they operated under an expired license.
Members of the organization called for “international mediators” such as the US and the EU to help it open channels of communication with the Kurdish authorities to resolve the issue.
“Yazda was established to prevent future genocides after the vicious assaults committed by ISIS after August 3 2014. Advocating and highlighting this cause in all international norms cannot be translated as ‘political activities,’” Yazda’s statement read.
Rudaw contacted Duhok Asayish on Tuesday whose director said he was out of town on official business and unaware of the incident.
Dr. Dindar Zebari, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s High Committee to Evaluate and Respond to International Reports, told Rudaw English on Monday that the closure came after Yazda ignored a warning to abide by the rules of the Kurdistan Region regarding the work of NGOs.
Ismael said they did not receive such warning while Jamo said that it may have been issued by the local government in Duhok.
Zebari added that Yazda had in some aspects overstepped the boundaries of NGO work.
Yazda represents the UN Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad, the Yezidi woman who survived ISIS captivity after she lost many members of her family.
Nobel Peace Prize nominee Nadia Murad tweeted on Wednesday that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) should allow Yazda to reopen its Duhok offices.
“I call on the Kurdistan Regional Government to reopen Yazda’s vital work without any delay,” Murad wrote in a tweet. “It’s a shame to close the organization that supports my campaign.”
Murad, who was kidnapped by ISIS in August of 2014, was named the first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking of the United Nations in September of 2016.
Yazda has provided emergency aid, including psychological care, to Yezidi women and girls upon their rescue. They also provide education and training to create opportunities for women and girls to build a stable, self-sufficient future.