State Department Meetings With Yezidi Leaders
Question: There are some Yezidi leaders in town who are looking for more help in tracking down women and girls who were kidnapped as sex slaves during the fight over the mountain. Do you -- have they had meetings here at State, and/or do you have anything to say about that?
Answer: Last week, a delegation of Yezidi leaders from Iraq and Germany met with Sarah Sewall, the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights; Catherine Russell, the Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues; Luis CdeBaca, the Ambassador at Large for Trafficking in Persons; senior officials in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration; the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; the Office of Global Criminal Justice; USAID, as well as others. In all their meetings, State Department officials discussed their concerns about the ongoing security and humanitarian crisis confronting the Yezidi community, including for the women and children who were taken captive by ISIL. They also discussed the potential provision of psycho-social aid to the women and girls who escaped ISIL but remain severely traumatized from their experiences.
We condemn in the strongest terms the commodification of women and girls as spoils of war, and their subjection to horrific physical and sexual abuse, intimidation, and deprivation of liberty. ISIL has made the targeting of women a hallmark of its campaign of atrocities. We believe that the number of such captives may be in the thousands. We are closely tracking ISIL’s enslavement, sale, forced marriage, and abuse of Yezidi and other religious minority women and girls. The individuals responsible for these brutal and senseless acts of violence must be identified and held fully accountable.
State Department officials also expressed grave concern for the dire conditions of the remaining individuals on Mount Sinjar. We also understand that Iraqi and local Peshmerga troops have resupplied the Yezidi community on Mount Sinjar within the last two weeks. The U.S.-led coalition strikes near Mount Sinjar against ISIL last week were intended to provide relief to the besieged Yezidis.
With our international partners, and the United Nations, we continue to look for every opportunity to help those who are suffering under ISIL’s barbaric and inhumane captivity. Through a steady campaign of coordinated airstrikes, the resupply of resources, and humanitarian assistance to millions of displaced Iraqis, including many members of religious and ethnic minorities, we remain committed to the protection of civilians from ISIL’s terror, and working with the international coalition to defeat ISIL.