Yazidi Genocide — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:47 am on 8th February 2022.

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Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Independent, Rutherglen and Hamilton West 9:47 am, 8th February 2022

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate Brendan O'Hara on securing this important debate, and thank the Backbench Business Committee for agreeing to it. I also thank Ms Ghani for her moving contribution.

I am glad that hon. Members here recognise the genocide perpetrated against Christians and the Yazidi people by Daesh, but I am disheartened by the fact that the Government have not yet followed suit. Almost two weeks ago, many of us contributed to the Backbench Business debate marking Holocaust Memorial Day, in which we again committed to learning the difficult lessons of the holocaust and of genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. Exactly a week before that, many of us urged the Government to at least assess whether there has been a genocide of the Uyghur people. It is disappointing to be highlighting another instance of the very worst actions of mankind in hopes of Government recognition. It is devastating that such events continue in the modern world at all.

By not acknowledging the plight of the Yazidis as a genocide, the Government are failing the victims. This House voted unanimously to recognise it as such in 2016. This is not an argument of politics or about the technicalities of international law; it is an argument of morals, and of what we are willing to sit by and silently watch continue. In the past year or so, women across the UK have been incensed with rage at the murder of women at the hands of men. The Government voiced their support for those British women, and condemned the violence and abuse suffered every day by thousands across the country. Does the Government’s responsibility to promote and protect women’s equality stop at the UK’s borders? Is women’s equality elsewhere not our problem to worry about or make determinations on?

Where there are wide-reaching campaigns of persecution, such as Daesh’s against Christians and Yazidis, women and girls face the most inconceivable and haunting horrors; we have heard about some of them. We cannot even begin to imagine those horrors, no matter how hard we might try—the trauma of forced sterilisation, rape, sexual mutilation perpetrated against children, lives destroyed before they have even begun, women abused and raped in front of their children, and women sold like cattle from man to man, time and again. There are still 2,763 women and children missing, and they have been missing for seven years. What contribution have this Government made to finding them, rescuing them or even finding out if they are alive? It is not enough simply to condemn these atrocities. The Government will not even use the word that defines them—genocide. Imagine, as a survivor, how that must feel.

There needs to be recognition of what survivors have lived through, and of what many did not survive. We all remember the headlines from those early years of conflict—the frequent news stories of British citizens leaving the UK to join Daesh in the conflict, or of those who joined Daesh but remained here at home. The UK is not entirely removed from these crimes against humanity in ways, we might argue, we are from other conflicts. Have the Government made any assessment of how many British citizens had a hand in these crimes?

No colleague here will need reminding of my final point. Unfortunately, the UK has its own issues that it must address when it comes to religious intolerance. There is a risk, whenever issues such as this come back into the public spotlight, that everyone of the same background becomes tarred with the same brush. Islam is a peaceful religion, as most are, when they are observed as they were intended to be. The word “Islam” means peace and submission. We must not let those who subvert its teachings to justify terror and atrocities stoke fear of religion, or fear of those of the faith. These atrocities are not committed in the name of Islam, but in the name of control. We cannot allow Daesh to retain control of this narrative.