In August 2014, Da’esh forces swept through northern Iraq, targeting men and women, boys and girls of the Yazidi minority group. Last year, the United Nations released a report entitled ‘They came to destroy us’ documenting the tactics and practices Da’esh used in their genocide of the Yazidis. Those tactics have included sexual slavery; the imposition of measures to prevent the birth of Yazidi children, transferring Yazidi children from their own families to Da’esh fighters, cutting them off from their culture and religion and erasing their identity as Yazidis. National and international forces continue to prevent Yazidi survivors from accessing their traditional lands, perpetuating the genocide by preventing access and connection to cultural practices. The genocide began with the slaughter in Sinjar, but it continues to this day.
The international community is failing to act to prevent or punish the genocide of the Yazidis. Lawyers and survivor activists have advocated at the UN, with the UK government and the Iraqi government, but investigators are still not being allowed access to crime scenes and not a single Da’esh fighter has been prosecuted for their crimes.
On 3 August, the Yazidi community in Australia commemorated the genocide at events held in Wagga Wagga and Yazda Australia participated in events around the world. The federal member for the Riverina, Michael McCormack MP sent the community a message of respect for the occasion. But the federal parliament will not recognise what the Yazidis have experienced as a genocide.
To commemorate the anniversary, Canberra artist advocate and architect of the prosecute; don’t perpetrate campaign spent a day at parliament house, making a sculpture of a weeping peacock. The peacock is an important cultural and religious symbol for the Yazidis. Press, parliamentarians and members of the public were invited to watch the creation of the peacock, learn about the genocide and discuss what individuals and governments can do to help bring justice for the crimes experienced by the Yazidis.
The day was a great success. Two ministers, one member of parliament, one staffer, members of the Australian Federal Police and a range of interested members of the public participated in discussions of the issues and took away further information to process in their own time. A brief on sexual violence as genocide was produced for distribution on the day. You can see a copy of that brief here.