Sozan Speaks Up for Yezidi Justice

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Thursday, May 13, 2021
Sozan Shingali is a Yezidi lawyer who fiercely advocates for Yezidi women and girls who survived genocide and gender-based violence committed by ISIS.

“Legal procedures are difficult, and I would do everything I could to make it easier for my clients, because I knew they had already been through so much.”

Sozan, a Yezidi lawyer originally from Sinjar, has spent the last year representing Yezidi women and girls. Her clients include survivors of genocide and gender-based violence who live in Sheikhan. Working with USAID partner Dak Organization for Ezidi Women Development, Sozan helps survivors who were captured and escaped from the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with legal issues such as civil documentation and personal status matters, compensation claims and testifying in terrorism trials. She is a fierce advocate for survivors’ legal rights, “Legal procedures are difficult, and I would do everything I could to make it easier for my clients, because I knew they had already been through so much.”

One of Sozan’s clients, Khalida1, a Yezidi woman who was trafficked and forced into a marriage with an ISIS militant, and she spent two and a half years in captivity with him until the liberation, when he died and she was injured. With the help of her family, she fled to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) where she was able to get medical treatment. 

The Yezidi and the international communities have focused considerable attention on the need for legal justice for the victims of international war crimes. Yet without an international justice mechanism almost seven years after the genocide, survivors are pursuing whatever options are available at the domestic level, often without a lawyer as they testify about traumatic incidents. 

Though fearful, Khalida told Sozan that she wanted to seek justice against the men who hurt her and other Yezidis.  She knew the names of the ISIS militants who perpetrated these acts of violence and she was determined to file a criminal complaint. Sozan accompanied Khalida to the Investigation Court and sat next to her while she testified. Sozan recalled, “When she testified, I felt she was fearful. She was very scared to talk about what happened, yet I could also feel that she was seeking justice because she had a sense of safety.” Khalida felt good about testifying, “Now I feel that things are fair and there is justice because I went to a specialized authority where their aim is to arrest perpetrators.” 

In addition to testifying, Sozan learned that Khalida had suffered physical injuries during the Mosul liberation, and advised her that she was eligible to apply for financial compensation. “I was aware about the compensation law, but I didn’t have information about the details and process until I met Sozan,” said Khalida. 

To file a compensation claim, Sozan accompanied Khalida throughout the process, visiting  many government offices and to the Sinjar Compensation Court in Fayda, and conducting the necessary medical tests to confirm her injuries. “Clients don’t have enough information about how courts work and the procedures,” said Sozan, “Before my client goes anywhere, I coordinate everything to make sure procedures go smoothly, and when I can I go in their place because I know they are tired.” 

With support from Sozan, Khalida completed her file at the Court level for compensation. Her file will now be reviewed by the Compensation Committee, where they will determine the amount of compensation. 

“Now I feel that I won a victory, and I am comfortable psychologically. The statement I gave to the court was like lifting a heavy burden for me before because I was unable to tell anyone except the court.  I feel I have hope to obtain compensation because I provided evidence of the violations that I faced, and I am now aware of how to continue with my claim.  I am very lucky because many of the survivors did not get the opportunity to have an organization help them.”

1 Name has been changed to protect the identity of this person. 

Last updated: November 01, 2021

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