8. October 2021 – DOCUMENTARIES
On the 3rd of August 2021, the genocide against the Yazidis had its 7th anniversary. This day always evokes unimaginable pain and terrible memories for all survivors and the Yazidi community more generally, which is why public remembrance is so important: we have to make sure that those affected are not left alone with their memories and their pain. On this occasion, we showed our documentary film “JIYAN – The Forgotten Victims of ISIS” in Stuttgart. The film tells the story of ISIS survivor Najlaa Matto and her return to the place where she witnessed terrible crimes against humanity. The event was open to the public via our livestream.
After the screening, trauma psychologist Prof. Dr. Dr. Jan Ilhan Kizilhan, the Federal Government Commissioner for Religious Freedom Worldwide Markus Grübel, international law expert Dr. Alexander Schwarz, ISIS survivor Sara Singari and “JIYAN” protagonist Najlaa Matto as well as “JIYAN” director Düzen Tekkal came together for a panel discussion, moderated by Azadê Peşmen. Having the event take place in Stuttgart was of particular significance: in 2015, 1100 Yazidis found refuge here In the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, thanks to a special contingent set up by the state’s administration.
At the beginning of the evening, Theresa Schopper, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports of the State of Baden-Württemberg, welcomed all the guests. This was followed by the screening of the film, which was hard to bear for the survivors present. Several times during the screening, Professor Kizilhan was seen rising from his seat in the auditorium to turn to individual Yazidis in the room and offer them comfort.
Following the film, Najlaa Matto gave a moving speech. She explained that as long as the women still held captive are not freed and their whereabouts are unclear, she herself is not completely free either.
Professor Kizilhan reported on his work with genocide survivors and how he and his team are trying to help them come to terms with these traumatic events. He also pointed out the survivors’ wishes for reparations. These are not of material nature, I.E. about money or about returning to their old homes. The women, In fact, want justice through the prosecution of ISIS perpetrators.
Dr. Alexander Schwarz, an expert in international law, gave insights into the actions of the German criminal justice system against ISIS supporters who are accused of crimes in connection with the Yazidi genocide and against whom the first court sentences have already been handed down.
Markus Grübel reported on future developments in Iraq. According to him, the current situation is one of light and shadow: the security situation is still tense as parts of Sinjar (the home region of the Yazidis) are still infested by ISIS militias. However, the reconstruction of the infrastructure is progressing more and more which led to some 30,000 internally displaced Yazidis being able to return to their home areas in 2020.
Sara Singari’s words particularly touched us: “There are many strong women here telling us their story. This is important. I don’t always want to talk about my past. I want to talk about my future and encourage the girls and women. You are great women, you are strong!” Sara is one of many who, as strong agents of change, are forging their own path, transforming entire societies according to their beliefs.
We would like to thank everyone who made this event so special! These include: the Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
The feeling of connection and solidarity due to so many long-time supporters attending the event was touching in an indescribable way, and most importantly, uniting. The courage and strength of the survivors to not give up and build a new life is incredibly important for us to realize that there is still so much work that lies ahead. We are all jointly responsible for ensuring that no further minority has to suffer a fate similar to the Yazidi religious community.