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Armenia Honors Yezidi Genocide Victims: Designates August 3 as Day of Commemoration


Armenia Honors Yezidi Genocide Victims: Designates August 3 as Day of Commemoration

Armenia, a nation with a deep historical understanding of the horrors of genocide, has taken a significant step in honoring the victims of the Yezidi Genocide. In a landmark decision, the Armenian Parliament has voted to designate August 3 as the official Day of Commemoration for the Yezidi Genocide.



The bill, put forward by Rustam Bakoyan, an ethnic Yezidi Member of Parliament representing the Ruling Civil Contract Party, garnered overwhelming support during its first reading. With 88 votes in favor, the proposal is now poised to pass its second reading within the next 24 hours. Once enacted, Armenia will become the second country, after Iraq, to enshrine such a commemorative day into law.


Armenia Honors Yezidi Genocide Victims: Designates August 3 as Day of Commemoration

Bakoyan, in his impassioned address to the Parliament, emphasized the gravity of genocide as a crime against humanity. Drawing parallels between the experiences of Armenians and Yezidis, he highlighted the importance of proper condemnation and remembrance in preventing future atrocities. "Our destinies have always crossed paths," he remarked, highlighting the shared struggles of both communities throughout history.


Armenia's commitment to the prevention and condemnation of genocide is not new. In 2014, the country condemned the Yezidi genocide in Iraq at the United Nations, signaling its unwavering stance against such atrocities. Subsequent condemnations by Armenian National Assembly factions in 2015 and 2018 further solidified Armenia's dedication to this cause.


Deputy Foreign Minister Paruyr Hovhannisyan reiterated Armenia's foreign policy priorities, emphasizing the proactive stance the nation takes in supporting measures aimed at preventing and condemning genocide and other mass crimes. This commitment extends to bilateral and multilateral cooperation platforms, reflecting Armenia's role as a global advocate for human rights.


The decision to designate August 3 as a memorial day for the victims of the Yezidi genocide in Sinjar holds profound significance. In 2014, the Islamic State perpetrated a brutal campaign against the Yezidi population in the city of Sinjar, resulting in the displacement of approximately 50,000 Yezidis and the loss of thousands of lives.


Rustam Bakoyan, the driving force behind this legislative initiative, emphasized the importance of remembering the atrocities committed against the Yezidi community. As Chair of the Standing Committee on Protection of Human Rights and Public Affairs, Bakoyan has been instrumental in ensuring that the voices of the victims are heard and their suffering acknowledged.


Armenia Honors Yezidi Genocide Victims: Designates August 3 as Day of Commemoration

Background: 


In August 2014, the world witnessed genocide. Over the course of two weeks, the Sinjar region of Iraq was invaded by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). ISIS militants undertook a strategized campaign to ethnically cleanse Yazidis from existence.


Approximately 400,000 Yazidis fled to the neighboring Kurdistan Region of Iraq and tens of thousands took refuge on Mount Sinjar, where they faced near starvation. The rest, unable to flee, were killed or taken into captivity and subjected to horrific acts of violence – enslavement, forced labor, conscription, torture, and rape.

ISIS considered Yazidis “infidels” and ordered men to either convert or die. Women, on the other hand, were given no choice. They were taken captive, married off to the highest bidder, sexually enslaved, and forced to convert.

More than 6,000 women and children were taken captive by ISIS and nearly 2,800 are still missing today. Sexual violence was strategically used as a weapon of war and codified in ISIS manuals that explained how to traffic Yazidi women. ISIS believed that violating women would destroy the community from within.


Armenia Honors Yezidi Genocide Victims: Designates August 3 as Day of Commemoration

Who Are the Yazidis:


The Yazidis are a small minority indigenous to Mesopotamia who are united by their ethnic and religious identity. As an ancient monotheistic religion, Yazidism shares elements with other Middle Eastern traditions but is set apart by its prayer rituals, a belief in reincarnation, and the central role of the Peacock Angel, Tawusi Malek, who is worshiped as messenger to the Yazidi god. It is because of these unique tenets of their faith that Yazidis have been persecuted for centuries. Yazidi history recounts seventy-three instances of genocide - the latest which was conducted by ISIS. The constant threat of persecution led many Yazidis to settle in the northern region of Iraq (namely Sinjar), where the mountainous terrain provides some protection.

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