Nadia dreamed of either becoming a history teacher or opening a hair salon in Kocho, Iraq – a small village of farmers and shepherds in southern Sinjar. In her book, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State (2017), Nadia talks about growing up with her many brothers and sisters amidst a tight-knit Yazidi community. Central to Yazidi identity is the history of the seventy-three past firmans (to mean genocide) committed against the community by outside forces. Nadia, along with others Yazidis, learned about this history but never thought she herself would soon survive a genocide against her own religious community. Nadia writes, “…these stories of persecution were so intertwined with who we were that they might as well have been holy stories. I knew that the religion lived in the men and women who had been born to preserve it, and that I was one of them.” To Nadia, however, the previous genocides belonged to a distant past. The ongoing violence in Iraq and neighboring Syria also did not feel like part of the contemporary plight of Yazidis – until one day ISIS began to surround Kocho and the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces fled, leaving them unprotected.
In her research as part of Alejandro Baer’s course, SOC 4315 “Never Again! Memory & Politics after Genocide,” Alana Erickson reviewed media coverage of violence against Yazidi women in territory controlled by the Islamic State (IS). Below is a reflection of her work.
Looking at the repeated recounting of women’s traumatic experiences in the gory detailed articles across my news log, I find the descriptions of the crimes often gratuitous. I am critical of the use of descriptive stories and recounts of sexual violence perpetrated against Yazidi women by Daesh / the Islamic State (IS). Why are the writers choosing to use these descriptions or leaving them out completely? I am aware that these are real atrocities which happened, and part of reporting on them may include telling things that horrify any sensible reader. However I found myself avoiding logging the more horrible articles in my research, and instead writing them off as pointlessly evocative. I believe that there is something very powerful at play under the surface of these representations of the trafficking and sexual violence of Yazidi women in the news.
Since taking power, the Islamic State has unleashed waves of violence against several minority groups in the region. One of these groups, the Yazidis, has made international news with calls the violence qualifies as genocide. CHGS analyzes these claims.