We must support Yazidi women

Labour Party

At a meeting with Yazidi women in the European Parliament earlier this week, MEPs were reminded of the atrocities that many Yazidi women have been subjected to in recent years. Through shining a light on their plight, I hope that I can raise awareness and support for their fight for freedom.

The Yazidi community has long been a target for Isis insurgents, with nearly 10,000 Yazidis being captured or killed by Isis since 2014. Indeed, a recent attack in Sinjar, Iraq, ended with 6,000 Yazidis being taken captive and 90% of the total population displaced.

Isis’ brutality knows no bounds and the violence perpetrated by religious fundamentalists has reached unprecedented levels, with thousands of Yazidi women enslaved and sold at slave markets in the region. Such attacks are ethnically rooted but gendered in nature, with many of the women captured being systematically tortured and sexually abused.

According to the UN, conflict has a disproportionate impact on women’s lives and the fight against Isis is no exception. Women caught up in the violence in Iraq and Syria face an increased risk of rape and sexual violence, and are significantly more likely to experience physical violence than during times of peace.

Women subjected to such horrors are often stigmatised by officials and family members, excluding them from access to key resources, support networks and decision-makers.

MEPs heard that those who speak out against the violence and seek to promote peace often face substantial jail sentences. More than 2,500 women and children have now been imprisoned since the conflict began, many of whom are subjected to regular sexual abuse.

The EU has a longstanding history of fighting for the rights of political prisoners and it is my deep-seated belief that women should be free to carry out political activities without fear of persecution or oppression.

With this in mind, it is more important than ever for the international community to work together to bring about justice for these women. Without due process, sexual violence is implicitly legitimised and the perpetrators of such crimes walk free.

The extent of the Yazidi women’s suffering must not fall on deaf ears and it is our responsibility to expose their lived experience in order to understand and, ultimately, confront such a brutal regime.

We need to take a stand to support Yazidi women and recognise the extent of the persecution and injustice taking place across the region. Without further action, the suffering will only continue.