Yazidi Genocide — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 8th February 2022.

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Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 9:30 am, 8th February 2022

I absolutely agree, and I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. The point about intent is crucial when deciding on genocide; I will expand on that later.

What sets this debate apart from all the others that we have had is the conviction in Germany in November 2021 of the Daesh terrorist Taha al-Jumailly for crimes including genocide and crimes against humanity. Not only is al-Jumailly the first Daesh member to be convicted of genocide against Yazidis, but his conviction means that the threshold demanded by successive UK Governments—that only a competent court can decide what is a genocide—has now been met. By the standard that the Government themselves set, they are now in a position to formally recognise the atrocities carried out by Daesh on the Yazidi people as a genocide.

I will first look at how the UN defines genocide. Then, using harrowing eyewitness testimony from survivors, I will set out why what happened to the Yazidi people more than reaches that threshold. Then I will examine the UK Government’s long-held position on declaring a genocide, and show how the ruling of the Frankfurt criminal court must force them to fundamentally alter how they define genocide and what Daesh did to the Yazidis and other minority communities during its reign of terror.

The United Nations genocide convention has been in place for more than 70 years. It clearly mentions killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, inflicting conditions calculated to bring about physical destruction, preventing births within a group, and transferring children to another group. When that is done

“with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”,

it constitutes genocide. There is irrefutable proof that what Daesh did meets every single one of those tests without exception.

Since the initial attack on Sinjar, Daesh has killed hundreds, if not thousands, of Yazidis; we do not know the exact number—and may never know it, because graves containing the remains of Yazidi men and boys continue to be discovered to this day. In “They came to destroy”, the United Nations report on Daesh crimes against the Yazidis, the UN stated that Daesh

“swiftly separated men and boys who had reached puberty from women and other children…Following this separation,”

Daesh

“fighters summarily executed men and older boys who refused to convert to Islam...Most of those killed were executed by gunshots to the head;
others had their throats cut…Other captives, including family members, were often forced to witness the killings.”

Daesh also attempted to destroy the Yazidi people by inflicting conditions calculated to bring about their physical destruction, including by cutting off food, water and medical assistance to those who fled to Mount Sinjar to escape the violence. In the summer of 2014, with temperatures rising to above 50°C, American, Iraqi, British, French and Australian forces had to air-drop water and other supplies to the besieged Yazidis on Mount Sinjar. Daesh shot at the planes dropping humanitarian aid and attacked the helicopters attempting to evacuate the most vulnerable in the community.

A favourite Daesh tactic was to separate children from their parents, with girls aged nine years and over being sold as sex slaves, while boys were sent from the age of seven to military training bases in Syria and Iraq. In “They came to destroy”, a 12-year-old boy told of his experiences at the hands of Daesh. He was taken from his family and sent to a camp. He said:

“They told us we had to become good Muslims and fight for Islam. They showed us videos of beheadings, killing and ISIS battles.”

He said that Daesh said:

“You have to kill kuffars even if they are your fathers and brothers, because they belong to the wrong religion and they don’t worship God”.

We know all too well the serious bodily and mental harm suffered by Yazidi women, who were subjected to appalling, barbaric treatment by Daesh, including rape, sexual violence, sexual slavery, forced sterilisation, torture, and all manner of inhumane and degrading treatment. Some may recall that on the day before our debate in 2016, the a 15-year-old Yazidi girl, Ekhlas, spoke to parliamentarians about her experience when Daesh arrived in her village. I will remind Members of what she said:

“There was knock at our door…My father and my two brothers were killed in front of me. They took me away from my mother. He grabbed my arm and my leg and then he raped me. He was 32 years old;
I was 15. After they raped me, they took my friend and they raped her. I could hear her shouting, ‘Where is the mercy? Where is the mercy?’…Any girls over the age of nine were raped”.

That was as difficult to read as it was to hear, but the voices of that community have to be heard, regardless of how harrowing or sickening the detail might be.

Just one of those atrocities would be enough to meet the definition of genocide in the UN genocide convention, if it was perpetrated with the intent of destroying a group in whole or in part. In the case of the Yazidis, every single prohibited act set out in the convention was used by Daesh, and it was done, as the hon. Member for Wealden said, with specific intent to destroy the community. That can be seen in multiple publications by Dabiq, the official mouthpiece of ISIS, that have said absolutely that this assault was planned with the intent of destroying that community. Let us have no debate about Daesh’s intention, because that is very clear.