Yazidis demand exhumation of mass graves

Mass graves containing remains of the people killed by ISIS during the genocide committed against the Yazidi community in 2014 have been waiting to be exhumed for nine years. Many Yazidis were killed and buried in these mass graves in villages and this situation causes trauma among Yazidis because they have to see these mass graves every day, reminding them how ISIS brutally killed their people.

In August 2014, ISIS committed a genocide against Yazidis in Shengal. The traces of the genocide, which will enter its 9th year, are still seen in Shengal and its villages. Mass graves are one of these traces. The Yazidis demanding the mass graves be exhumed said, “We suffer every day, for 24 hours when we see the mass graves not being exhumed. This genocide must end.”

After the genocide against the Yazidi community, Yazidis formed their own defense forces and built their own system to survive. They have been waging a great struggle for nine year to return to their homeland, build their lives, villages and houses. During the genocide, many Yazidis were killed and buried in mass graves by ISIS. Most of discovered mass graves have not been exhumed although nine years have passed since the genocide.

Hanging tree and mass graves

The residents of the village of Siba Sheikh Khidir are mostly from the Qirani tribe. Qiranis are known as lively, cheerful people. During the genocide, it was revealed that they are also resisting people. The villagers resisted ISIS and protected their village. ISIS could hold captive very few villagers from Siba because they resisted to the end. ISIS killed the resisting villagers and buried them in mass graves in the village. There are three mass graves in the village center and one at the entrance of the village. The three mass graves and a hanging tree in the village still remind the genocide.

While we were on our way to the mass graves, we heard a woman lamenting; “My Siba, my Siba. Siba was the home of heroes, brave people.” Mother Şeme was lamenting near the mass graves. She is the symbol of the resistance in Shengal. She was lamenting on behalf of all mothers, who lost their children. “They resisted, they did bow to the enemy (ISIS). They resisted for hours to protect Shengal. But then, they got tired and ISIS killed them in the village center. These mass graves remind us of the anniversary of the genocide.” Mother Şeme is a witness of the genocide against Yazidis.

9 years, 89 mass graves, thousands of victims

Until now, 89 mass graves have been discovered in Shengal. 39 of them containing the remains of 700 people have been exhumed although nine years have passed since the genocide. 201 of them have been identified until now.

Most of the mass graves were dug in the center or at the entrance of villages by ISIS. You can see at least a mass grave when you enter a village of Shengal.

“The Yazidis were left alone without weapons. If we had had weapons, we could have protected us,” said mother Şeme.

‘They gave us the remains of our loved ones in plastic bags’

We met mother Wethe near the mass graves in the village. “Nine years have passed since the genocide but the traces of the genocide are still seen in Shengal and its villages. Nobody did anything for us. The families of many of those buried in the mass grave still cannot return to Shengal due to their suffering. Some families are asked for money to exhume the mass graves; however, they do not have money. No one wants to exhume the mass graves in Shengal, especially in Siba. Whenever we see the mass graves, we experience the trauma that we experienced nine years ago. Some of the mass graves in Shengal were exhumed and the remains of the victims in these mass graves were taken to Baghdad. Then, families were called and told that they should bring coffins for their loved ones. Some families were too poor to buy coffins. These families received the remains of their loved ones in plastic bags,” mother Wethe told us.

She added, “The aim is to make the Kurds and Yazidis to accept the genocide as their destiny. In Turkey, families received the bones of their children in boxes. In Shengal, families received the remains of their children in plastic bags. Unfortunately, the Iraqi government showed great disrespect to the Yazidi families and the Yazidi community.”

Mother Wethe told us what she had witnessed during the genocide as follows:

“Our children and husbands resisted ISIS to protect us. ISIS executed them by firing squad in the village. Then, the killed Yazidis were hanged on a tree. The rope used by ISIS to hang the Yazidis on the tree is still there. Then, ISIS buried them in mass graves. Some people were buried in mass graves alive. We will never forget this genocide but they have no right to remind us the details of the genocide by not exhuming the mass graves. Every day, we see the mass graves from our houses. We do not know how many people were buried in these mass graves but we think there are more than 150 people buried in these mass graves.”

‘We ask the government to exhume the mass graves’

The villagers ask the Iraqi government to exhume the mass graves that they have seen every day for nine years. “The Iraqi government claims that it makes efforts for us but it has not exhumed the mass graves for nine years. All we ask the government is to exhume the mass graves.”

‘Yazidi women want to attend the tribunal to be set up for the prosecution of ISIS members’

Speaking about the decision of the AANES to prosecute ISIS members in prison, Wethe said, “ISIS members must be prosecuted for their crimes against humanity. The detained ISIS members must be handed over to us. We must prosecute them for their crimes against our community. We will never forget what ISIS did to us. We learned how to fight by fighting ISIS. Before the genocide, Yazidi women did not know how to fight but today, they know how to fight. Now, we have our own defense forces, the YŞJ. Many Yazidi women learned how to use weapons. Yazidi women can fight to protect themselves and their people now. As Yazidi women, we want to attend the tribunal to be set up for the prosecution of ISIS members.”

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