Administrator Samantha Power’s Remarks at YAZDA Global NGO: The 7th Annual Commemoration of the Yazidi Genocide

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Good morning––and good afternoon to all those watching around the world. I consider it a great honor to address the Yazda community and the survivors and family members who are gathered today, who fought so hard to protect the Yazidi people, document the atrocities they suffered at the hands of ISIS, and help find justice and closure. 

Though seven years have passed since the start of the Yazidi genocide, I imagine that the memories of those horrors are still fresh, that the ache for lost loved ones will not dull, and that the echoes of those crying out in pain and crying out for justice will not quiet. I can’t know what the trauma of this day, in particular, must bring. But I do know that the story of the Yazidi people is one that stretches back centuries, proud and determined to honor their faith and celebrate their culture. 

And I know that just as it is marked by centuries of persecution and dozens of ferman—of which this genocide is only the latest—their true narrative, your true narrative, is not one of victimhood. It is one of resilience. Of a people persevering in the presence of hate, standing strong when faced with evil, and fighting, always, for peace and freedom.

I also know that healing will only be found through justice, accountability, and the ability to return to your homelands. Just one week ago, I had the privilege to join Yazda’s sister organization, Nadia’s Initiative, and hear directly from Nadia Murad—someone whose grace and strength I have admired since we first met when she addressed the United Nations six years ago. 

Nadia spoke of a splintered Yazidi community––splintered physically and psychologically from seven years of reliving the atrocities. Seven years of enduring grief, coping with mental and physical scars, wondering which mass grave might hold your loved ones’ remains. Seven years of life spent adrift from one's homeland, from your homeland, from Sinjar.

Today, some survivors, supported by organizations like Yazda and Nadia’s Initiative, and by USAID, the Agency I have the privilege to run, have begun to return and rebuild. Together, we have established health clinics and refurbished hospitals, we’ve dug wells and irrigation ditches, and helped the local population respond to COVID-19 and build classrooms. 

But while 150,000 Yazidis have returned to Sinjar, nearly 300,000 remain displaced, many in tent camps for displaced peoples. There are children who have been born in these camps, some of whom are now seven years old. They have never seen Mt. Sinjar, the sacred mountain. They have never been inside a place of worship; never prayed in a temple. These children, and their families, are unable to return to Sinjar, fearful of a resurgence of the violence from ISIS perpetrators who have escaped accountability, and from militias who have occupied the region since the Yazidi people fled. 

The U.S. has encouraged our partners in the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to create the legal architecture necessary to prosecute and win convictions for crimes of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. And we urge them to include Yazidis in implementing the Sinjar Agreement. In order for the displaced to return, they must have a voice in Sinjar’s rebuilding process. To effectively live up to the promise of the Agreement requires inclusive consultation, trustworthy government administrators, and a local security force to provide safety and stability.

These steps will not change what began on this day, seven years ago. But they will mark a new beginning—for justice and they will honor the resilience of the Yazidi people. “I ask you to support my community, not because Yazidis are special,” Nadia said when I saw her recently, “but because we are the same. We are human.” 

The U.S. is proud to recognize the humanity of the Yazidis, and all those seeking religious freedom, we are proud to offer our unwavering support to make sure your dignity is upheld. I thank you.

Last updated: August 04, 2021

Share This Page