Surviving the Yazidi Genocide: A story of trauma, loss, and the fight for justice

9781524760434.jpegNadia 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.

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Genocidal Crimes Against the Yazidis: Sensationalism in the Media

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.

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