Nadia Murad, a Yezidi woman from Kocho, speaks at the European Parliament after receiving the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought on December 13, 2016. Photo: EU
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – In light of Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi paramitary units capturing the village of Kocho in Shingal, a symbol of ISIS atrocities against the Yezidi community, the UN Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad warned forces of dividing the region as they take ISIS-held areas in northern Iraq.
Murad in her message highlighted that the controlled areas of Shingal and Nineveh plains from ISIS have been turned into political and military rivalries, depriving the Yezidis of their rights.
“Our fear today is that the Yazidi homeland in Sinjar will be divided into three or more regions and the opposing factions will fight for control on our land – not to advance the dignity of our people," Murad said in a statement after Kocho was controlled yesterday by the Hashd al-Shaabi.
The ISIS survivor who comes from Kocho cited inaction by the international community.
“The Yazidi community have been waiting for three years, while constantly asking the international community to take the Yazidi Genocide seriously and to grant the most basic rights to victims in the aftermath of the Genocide,” Murad said. “So little changed in those three years.”
Kocho, the hometown of Murad, is a symbol of ISIS atrocities against Yezidi people. It is 18 kilometers south of Shingal town. Some 4,000 Yezidis used to inhabit it.
When ISIS militants attacked Shingal and its surroundings in August 2014, they arrested thousands of Yezidis, many from the village of Kocho. Some of them were collectively killed in the village, other girls and women were sold or taken by ISIS members. The fates of thousands of Yezidis still remain unclear.
“There have been over 40 mass graves found in Sinjar. I am horrified by the thought of the remains of six of my brothers in those graves, along with 700 other Yazidis who were summarily executed on the 15th of August 2014,” Murad detailed.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is using Geographic Information System (GIS) in its Commission of Investigation and Gathering Evidence (CIGE) headquarters in Duhok to plot claims of ISIS atrocities. Authorities have opened files for more than 1,600 allegations, but say they are unable to access many areas not under Kurdish Peshmerga control.
According to data in March from the KRG Office of Yezidi Affairs, of the 6,255 Yezidis who were kidnapped in August 2014, 3,878 are still in ISIS captivity with nearly 1,800 of them being women and children.
She partially lays blame on the international community for what happened against the Yeizids by ISIS, explaining that in the period before the group besieged Kocho — prior to the massacre — Yezidis had asked for help.
"While it was under siege for 12 days under the Islamic State [ISIS] in summer 2014, we called for help, but a genocide was committed against us. The men were killed in masses, women were kidnapped and raped, and children were stripped away from their mothers,” she said.
The Goodwill Ambassador pleaded for the international community to now step up and assist in bringing justice.
“Kocho is one of the capital crimes of 21st century,” she added. “It is with this in mind that I ask the liberating and security forces to preserve all findings, so there will be living evidence of the Islamic State crimes forever.”
Yezidis in Shingal have repeatedly called for more support to rebuild infrastructure and schools so they can return.
“Kocho is now liberated but it is a ghost’s village,” Murad said.