Yezidis in Iraq & Syria: Genocide, Recovery & Geopolitical Challenges
In response to ISIS’ genocidal assault of the Yezidis beginning in 2014, the United States assembled a global coalition of 80 countries from around the world to defeat ISIS. Seven years later, Yezidis still struggle to recover in Iraq and in Syria. Hundreds of thousands remain displaced, heavily traumatized, facing threats from an array of actors. Yezidi lands in and around Sinjar, Iraq, and in Afrin and other parts of Syria remain disputed or occupied. In Sinjar, regional powers and non-state actors compete for power, even amidst a backdrop of Turkish-led airstrikes. In Syria, Yezidi communities have fled Afrin and other locations that are now occupied by Turkey and Turkish-backed militias.
The Biden Administration must develop policies for Iraq and Syria that prioritize Yezidi and minority rights and must ensure that Yezidis do not suffer persecution and further marginalization even after the military defeat of ISIS. This panel will discuss the challenges and opportunities for Yezidis, the geopolitical terrain, and possible paths forward for the United States.
Syrian Yezidis Under Four Regimes: Assad, Erdogan, ISIS and the YPG
Read Amy Austin Holmes' Occasional Paper on the status of one of the most endangered religious minorities in the Middle East. Dr. Holmes compares the treatment of Syrian Yezidis under four types of rule: the Syrian Baathist regime, the Islamic State, the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), and the Turkish occupation initiated by Operation Olive Branch and Operation Peace Spring, and how each impacted Yezidis' efforts to reclaim and rebuild their ancient communities. She concludes with recommendations for United States policymakers as Syrian Yezidis are presently faced with forced demographic change under Turkish occupation, and need international support to rebuild and preserve their heritage.Read the Publication
James F. Jeffrey
Former ambassador to Iraq and Turkey, and Special Envoy to the Global Coalition To Defeat ISIS
Amy Austin Holmes
Middle East Program
The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform U.S. foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Read more