Nadia’s Initiative and IOM Iraq Break Ground on Cemetery and Memorial for Yazidi Genocide Victims
13 February 2023
Solagh, Sinjar – As the Yazidi community in Iraq continues to rebuild in the wake of genocide, construction of a cemetery and memorial in Solagh, Sinjar, has officially commenced. Launched by Nadia’s Initiative (NI) in 2021 in response to requests from the Yazidi community, NI spent the last two years designing the cemetery and memorial in partnership with community members and a Yazidi architect. This week, construction is officially underway with support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Iraq and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
In August 2014, the Yazidi ethno-religious minority community in Sinjar was attacked by Daesh in a systematic attempt to erase them from existence. Thousands of people were killed, hundreds of thousands were displaced, and more than 6,000 women and children were enslaved. Today, around 2,700 Yazidis are still considered missing, while dozens of mass graves remain unexhumed.
“Grief is part of the healing process,” said Nadia Murad, founder and president of Nadia’s Initiative. “Having a place to collectively mourn and remember our families, friends, and neighbors is vital for survivors, especially those who have returned to Sinjar. It also serves an educational purpose – reminding the world of what our community suffered, and how we must continue to focus on preventing such atrocities.”
“When a community has experienced this degree of trauma and devastation, memorializing the past and paying tribute to lost loved ones become essential components of efforts to support survivors as they return home from displacement,” said IOM Iraq Chief of Mission, Giorgi Gigauri. “This is what we are endeavoring to do here – a memorial by and for the community, that is also consistent with the provisions enshrined in the Yazidi Survivors Law, which IOM and Nadia’s Initiative have worked to support from its inception, and to which we remain committed as the reparations roll-out continues.”
“This cemetery will be the first project of this scale documenting the Yazidi genocide. It will be a historical landmark for future generations and will visually demonstrate the magnitude of the genocide and its impact on our community. Establishing a symbolic mass grave will attract the attention of public figures and those who are interested in human rights and justice issues,” says Khaled Talo Khedr, community member and relative of a Solagh victim.
Memorializing the victims of genocide is essential to the Yazidi community, many of whom remain displaced within Iraq more than eight years later. The final design for the cemetery and memorial was selected through extensive consultations with survivors both displaced and returned and aims not only to honor those who were lost, but also to act as a catalyst for the collective healing of a people, community, and region that has withstood incredible trauma.
This is the first memorialization project of this size and scope to be implemented in Sinjar. The construction’s design aims to preserve and honor the memories of Yazidis in Sinjar, and it will serve as a place of solace and remembrance for the greater Yazidi community.
About Nadia’s Initiative:
Nadia’s Initiative is an international NGO dedicated to rebuilding communities in crisis and advocating globally for survivors of sexual violence. Its current work is focused on the sustainable redevelopment of the Yazidi homeland in Sinjar, Iraq. Nadia’s Initiative works with the local community and a variety of implementing partners on the ground in Sinjar to design and support projects that promote the restoration of education, healthcare, livelihoods, WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene), culture, and women’s empowerment in the region. All Nadia’s Initiative programs are community-driven, survivor centric, and work to promote long term peacebuilding. Nadia’s Initiative advocates governments and international organizations to support efforts to rebuild Sinjar, seek justice for Yazidis, improve security in the region, and support survivors of sexual violence worldwide.
About IOM Iraq:
IOM is the leading intergovernmental organization in the field of migration, working in cooperation with the Government of Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government, civil society organizations and international partners to provide support across the country’s 18 governorates. As part of its multi-sectoral response covering camp management and camp coordination, shelter and infrastructure rehabilitation, healthcare, mental health and psychosocial support, livelihood assistance, policy development and more, IOM plays a key role in advancing a trauma-informed, survivor-centered transitional justice process in Iraq.