United Nations, April 29, 2019
Wartime sexual violence has become a significant aspect of today’s conflicts, affecting people across age and gender. Perpetrators often go unpunished and survivors do not get the support and redress that they need. What needs to be done to change this situation and where do we start?
We need courts that will bring perpetrators like ISIS to accountability through a fair trial. When we speak of accountability, we must speak of justice for survivors. Perpetrators must be prosecuted for their crimes as part of a complete truth and reconciliation process – even if those perpetrators are state actors.
We must put an end to impunity. We believe this is the best way to end the violence. Accountability challenges the idea that certain groups of people are ultimately without rights and anything can be done to them. This attitude is profoundly damaging to the prospect of lasting peace and is evident, not just in those that carry out sexual violence, but those who refuse to prosecute it.
Many Yazidi families in Iraq remain displaced, some are still missing, homes have been destroyed and public services in places like Sinjar are not available. How do such communities move forward?
We must educate the world about the Yazidis and encourage all people to imagine the Sinjar region as a place that can be prosperous and peaceful. Rebuilding can be a slow process, but the more people learn about our culture, the more they understand how much we have in common and we can imagine a new future for the region together.
Not only does everyone have an interest in peace, but by rebuilding Sinjar we are emphasizing that stopping a genocide includes addressing its aftermath. Victimized communities everywhere should be helped and given the chance to heal. Stopping a gruesome, immediate attack is necessary but we cannot leave seriously injured people to die or fend for themselves. In many ways, that is as brutal as the initial attack. The Yazidis have survived 70 genocides and I know we will overcome this one. This time, however, we must do more than merely endure. We must work toward a future in which the entire world, not just the Yazidis, say “never again.”
You are a symbol of strength and hope for many people around the world. What is your message to people who have suffered the atrocities of war?
My message to people who have suffered the atrocities of war is to believe that things can be different. Understanding that peace is possible is ultimately about standing up for your own human rights. That is why we all benefit from peaceful societies which honor those rights. This vision of peace depends on justice, healing, and support for victimized communities. We must see the reality of this, educate our children to expect it, and not be distracted by hatred.
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