Iraqi Kurdish leader vows justice for Yezidi victims of ISIS

2015-08-03 17:00
Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community arrive at Nowruz camp, in Derike, Syria. (File, AP)

Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community arrive at Nowruz camp, in Derike, Syria. (File, AP)

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Baghdad - The president of Iraqi Kurdistan vowed on Monday to achieve justice for the victims of massacres and sexual violence perpetrated a year ago by the Islamic State extremist group (ISIS) against members of the Yezidi ethnic and religious minority in northern Iraq.

Masoud Barzani spoke at an event in Dohuk, also in northern Iraq, that marked the first anniversary of an ISIS assault that killed thousands of Yezidis and sent many women into sexual slavery.

Hundreds of women are still held by the extremists. Tens of thousands of Yezidis - who practice the Yezidi faith, which predates Islam - fled their homes.

The ISIS attack in the Sinjar region shocked people around the world and prompted US President Barack Obama to start air strikes against the militants. The aerial campaign continues in both Iraq and Syria.

"Whoever proved to be involved in such crimes will never escape justice and punishment no matter how long it takes," Barzani said, adding that the Sinjar area, which is not part of Iraqi Kurdistan, should fall under Kurdish control once ISIS was ousted from the last parts of the territory.

"The crimes committed against civilian populations and on ethnic or religious grounds, some of which may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, will not be forgotten," Jan Kubis, a UN envoy to Iraq, said in a statement.

The attacks on the Yezidis unified disparate Kurdish forces as they all took on ISIS, although fault lines have again started to emerge over the past two weeks, threatening the US-led campaign against the jihadists, which relies heavily on Kurdish fighters.

Barzani, a conservative, on Saturday called on the leftist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to leave northern Iraq after Turkish airstrikes on the group killed at least eight civilians.

The PKK and Turkey have been fighting a civil war since 1984, leaving about 40 000 people dead. A ceasefire announced by the PKK in 2013 collapsed recently amid an uptick in violence.

Among the attacks allegedly carried by the PKK last week was an explosion that hit a pipeline transporting oil from Iraqi Kurdistan via Turkey.

The Iraqi Kurdistan government said the attack, which the PKK claimed was unintentional, cost it $250m.

The PKK is the sister organisation of the Kurdish militia in Syria, the People's Protection Units (YPG), the main US ally on the ground in northern Syria pushing back ISIS. The group has claimed back most of the area along the Turkish border from the extremists.

YPG and PKK fighters, alongside Iraqi Kurdistan Peshmerga units, were instrumental a year ago in helping save many Yezidis from ISIS. Most of the refugees now live in the Kurdistan region.

Tensions between Barzani and the PKK have spilled over into the Kurdistan regional government, some of whose parties back the armed group.

Barzani's term as president is set to end this month. It is unclear what will happen with the region's political system afterwards.

Read more on:    isis  |  iraq  |  us

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