Deprived of their childhood, Yazidi children’s forgotten, post genocide tragedy continues

Save the Children released a report describing the situation of Yazidi children, based on interviews with more than a hundred aged 7 to 17 years old. Many are still displaced, in fear of abduction and forced recruitment, their right to an education denied. Without action, their fate is bound to get worse.

Erbil (AsiaNews) – Eight years after the rise of the Islamic State (IS) group and the trail of blood and devastation it left in northern Iraq, most Yazidi children are still displaced from their original home.

In a recently published study, Save the Children Fund shows that many Yazidi children live in “unsafe environments, where they are surrounded by physical reminders" of IS violence, including "destroyed homes, schools and hospitals".

The report highlights the state of neglect in which the children live, their childhood largely stolen, their suffering forgotten by the international community, which must "satisfy their right to education” and hope for a better future.

In the summer of 2014 about 400,000 Yazidis, an ethno-religious minority living near the Iraqi-Syrian border, were captured, killed, or forced to flee Sinjar, their homeland, to escape the violence of the men of the so-called Islamic caliphate.

Years later, the United Nations classified their persecution as “genocide”, which included the abduction, rape, and sexual enslavement of up to 3,000 women; many of whom are still missing.

Youth were separated from their families and forcibly drafted into the ranks of the Islamic State.

To understand the impact of this, Save the Children met with 117 children, aged 7 to 17, who were very young or infants when they lost their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters in the whirlwind of IS violence.

All respondents, regardless of age, say they continue to harbour feelings of fear and insecurity in everyday life.

Of the 40 teenagers, 39 said that they “did not feel safe where they live”, fearing “abduction, sexual violence, and recruitment" by armed groups and "further family loss or separation.”

“Every day we see young children carrying weapons and working with the security forces – armed groups, and they are still young, less than 18 years old,” said Khalid, a boy aged in the 7-10 age group.

Taken from their family, many children forgot their native language, Kurmanji, or were born in captivity and did not learn it, and thus face huge difficulties in communicating with surviving relatives and returning to the communities of origin.

Post-traumatic disorder is another major issue, particularly among girls who survived sexual abuse and violence, affected by behavioural disorders, depression, and other psychological and physical problems.

For many children, the situation is compounded by a lack of identity papers, education, and  rehabilitation programmes, not to mention the still bombed-out schools, unsafe roads, and the ever-present danger of kidnapping.

For female caregiver Souzan, “our sons and daughters [are afraid of] going to distant schools because of the fear of kidnapping”.

“Yazidi children continue to live in fear of what they and their families experienced at the hands of ISIS,” said Rizgar Aljaff, Save the Children's acting country director for Iraq. “Their fundamental rights as children are still denied.”

Regrettably, “The urgent care and support they need to help process their trauma and heal are still grossly lacking,” he explained. “If nothing changes, the impacts of the genocide on Yazidi children will only deepen.”