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This report focuses on the Yazidi community, one of the largest minority groups in Iraq, and their perceptions towrds conflicts and future reconciliation following the Islamic States (IS) invasion in 2014. The violence inflicted on this community by IS, combined with long-standing historical grievances, make their views on and attitudes toward the concept of reconciliation particularly relevant for the future stability of Iraq. By focusing on the question of what reconciliation means to the Yazidi community in Iraq, this study aims to map historic and more recent grievances, intra- and inter-community conflicts and tensions, and uncover community-held perspectives on conflict and reconciliation.
This report starts by placing emphasis on the need of avoiding imposing presumed definitions of reconciliation on the Yazidis context. Although the term itself has not yet been conclusively defined, peacebuilders and those engaged in reconciliation efforts after IS should be cautious about its usage and be clear as to what they mean by ‘reconciliation’ in their programmes. Failing to do this, significant efforts and financial resources may be wasted or yield little return. In addition to mentioning Yazidism, this report also examines pre-IS dynamics in order to understand the attitudes well. To this end, the researchers have highlighted two factors that have largely shaped the socio-economic status of Yazidis: (1) Their identity as an ethno-religious minority in Iraq’s system of governance, and (2) The ongoing land disputes and competition over resources between Baghdad and Erbil.
The findings of this study reveal that the Yazidis suffer from internal and external conflicts. Externally, IS’s violent attack and sexual enslavement of Yazidis have greatly damaged the Yaizid-Sunni Arab relations. Further, the KRG and the Iraqi government do not seem to enjoy a favourable stance among the Yazidiz; the KRG is seen to be largely focused on its own agendas while the Iraqi government is deemed to be neglectful of the Yazidis. Internally, a minority of Yazidis are beginning to consider themselves as a separate ethnic group rather than Kurds. This sentiment has grown among the people in Shingal since the KRG has not pursued a healthy policy in this area. There is also a gap between the community and political representatives. Many Yazidis do not feel represented as a result of the political affiliations of their leaders. In addition, the presence of a considerable number of armed groups in the Nineveh Plain that enjoy the support of the Yazidis may lead to worrying friction between part of the Yazidi community and the KRG.
The interviews for this report have been conducted in the summer of 2016 as part of a study funded by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP). The findings of this study have been reported to USIP at the time and now made accessible for a larger audience as a service to those seeking to assess the extent to which Yazidi grievances have been or are being addressed in the aftermath of IS’ defeat in Nineveh. Although some views and opinions expressed by participants in this study may have been taken over by events, the findings of this study nevertheless constitute a form of documentation of the plight of the Yazidi community in Iraq.
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About MERI: The Middle East Research Institute is Iraq’s leading policy-research institute and think tank. It is an independent, entirely grant-funded not-for-profit organisation, based in Erbil, Kurdistan Region. Its mission is to contribute to the process of nation-building, state-building and democratisation via engagement, research, analysis and policy debates.
MERI’s main objectives include promoting and developing human rights, good governance, the rule of law and social and economic prosperity. MERI conduct high impact, high quality research (including purpose-based field work) and has published extensively in areas of: human rights, government reform, international politics, national security, ISIS, refugees, IDPs, minority rights (Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen, Shabaks, Sabi mandeans), Baghdad-Erbil relations, Hashd Al-Shabi, Peshmarga, violence against women, civil society. MERI engages policy- and decision-makers, the civil society and general public via publication, focused group discussions and conferences (MERI Forum).