Yazidi Genocide — [Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:27 am on 8th February 2022.

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Photo of Chris Heaton-Harris Chris Heaton-Harris Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Chief Whip 10:27 am, 8th February 2022

I hope to cover that in the rest of my contribution, but if that is not the case, and the hon. Gentleman taps me on the shoulder afterwards, I will ensure that I write to all present in the Chamber.

The Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government must ensure that religious minorities are protected and included in decision making that affects their lives. As part of that, we meet frequently with religious minorities to show support and advocate against the insecurity, discrimination and inadequate public support they experience. His Holiness the Pope’s historic visit to Iraq last year sent a welcome message of peace and reconciliation to Iraqis of all faiths and reminded us all of the importance of dialogue and understanding between religions.

We are also supporting the most vulnerable people in Iraq, including the Yazidis, with humanitarian aid and stabilisation support. We have provided more than £270 million since 2014 in humanitarian support, including emergency food, shelter and medical care, in addition to money through the UN development programme to restore vital services, including hospitals, schools and water networks in areas that are home to Yazidi and minority communities, such as Sinjar and Sinuni.

It is also vital that we ensure that the Yazidis’ cultural identity, memories and practices are preserved, and we are supporting this through the work of the British Council’s cultural protection fund. That fund is helping the AMAR Foundation—a wonderful charity—to record and teach the unique music of the Yazidi people, helping to preserve it for future generations. That includes setting up a women’s choir in one of the camps for internally displaced persons. That cultural protection fund is also supporting the University of Liverpool’s work to preserve Yazidi culture and identity through filming their oral histories, festivals and rituals. We are funding Yazda, a non-governmental organisation, to provide much-needed mental health and psychosocial care to female survivors of sexual violence and conflict.

These projects offer a lifeline, but much more can be done by the Iraqi authorities and the international community. Last year, the Iraqi Parliament passed the Yazidi survivors law, a hugely positive step that officially recognised Daesh crimes against Yazidi and other minority groups as crimes against humanity and genocide. That law promises compensation and rehabilitation measures to support the survivors of Daesh atrocities. The UK will continue to press the authorities on those measures, and we are working with a range of organisations to support the law’s implementation. The Government of Iraq must fully deliver on their promises so that survivors can begin to rebuild their lives and return to the places that they call home. That includes funding for Iraq’s general directorate for Yazidi survivor affairs through our preventing sexual violence in conflict initiative.

I will conclude by again stressing our firm resolve to help Iraq build a future in which all groups can thrive and prosper. I commend the courage of the Yazidi people in continuing their fight for justice; their recovery and rehabilitation remains a priority. I commend every Member who has contributed today, including my hon. Friend Ms Ghani, who was in the Chamber earlier. We will continue to work with the Government of Iraq to secure accountability and justice for Yazidi survivors and the other communities that suffered so dreadfully at the hands of Daesh.