Justice After Genocide

Speeches Shim

Thursday, October 15, 2020
During a legal training simulation, lawyers at the Dak Organization practice client-interviewing.

Legal Support Helps Yazidi Women Rebuild After Crisis

“I cannot believe this is real, I have been waiting for this moment all my life.”

Layla is a wife, mother, grandmother, and part of the Yezidi community from the Sinjar province in northern Iraq. Though she has been married since she was 16 years old, Layla, currently in her mid-60s, held an Iraqi civil ID that identifies her as “single”. Her marriage from half a century ago was never registered and therefore in the eyes of the government, Layla was never married - let alone a mother. 

Unregistered marriages can lead to many problems: since the government did not legally recognize Layla as the mother of her children, her children were never legally registered as Iraqi citizens, and therefore not protected under the law. 

Layla’s story is not uncommon among Yezidis. Before the arrival of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Yezidis in Sinjar had limited access to official Iraqi government institutions and would rarely register births or marriages, which would allow them to obtain Iraqi identification documents, attend school or other activities that required an ID. 

ISIS’s brutal attacks on Layla’s community six years ago drastically altered the lives of women like her who continue to suffer due to forced displacement, kidnappings, sexual violence, and other horrific abuses committed against their families. After suffering  atrocities recognized as genocide at the hands of ISIS, Layla and other Yezidi women who managed to flee were unable to access essential government and humanitarian services without these identification documents. 

A USAID pilot program is helping to train lawyers from the Dak Organization for Ezidi Women Development on client- and survivor-centered approaches and legal skills. The woman-led, non-governmental organization, in turn, represents  and advises women like Layla and Sozan and involves them in making key decisions about their legal cases. 

“The existence of this program is very important for battered women, as we have no one to defend us and our cases in court,” said Sozan, another client of the Dak Organization. With help from the USAID program, Yezidi women like Layla and Sozan are able to get the legal protection and administrative support to fully benefit from their rights as Iraqi citizens. Layla received the legal support she needed to register her marriage, therefore legalizing her guardianship over her children and grandchildren. 

“I cannot believe this is real,” exclaimed Layla, “I have been waiting for this moment all my life.” 


Last updated: January 19, 2021

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