This week, the Genocide Studies Program at Yale is hosting a symposium titled “The Yazidi Genocide: Prosecution, Protection, and Preservation,” which focuses on ISIL’s genocide of the Yazidi ethnic minority in Iraq.
The symposium, open to Yalies and New Haven residents, began on Thursday with a keynote conversation between Director of Genocide Studies David Simon and Nadia Murad — a Yazidi human rights activist and a recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace. Murad was among the Yazidi women captured by ISIL in 2014, but she managed to escape and now advocates around the world for the ethnic minority.
During the keynote conversation, Murad emphasized the importance of rebuilding and finding a political solution for the Yazidis’ home — a town in Iraq called Sinjar. Both the Iraqi government and the Kurdish people are fighting over the land, and the town currently has multiple militant groups policing it. At the end of the conversation, Murad encouraged Yale students who want to help the Yazidi to advocate for the community, because the Yazidi people themselves often do not have the freedom to use their voices as much as students can.
“Most of the help that the Yazidi get is from ordinary people, like student volunteers,” Murad said.
The symposium will continue on Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with three panels, focusing on how to prosecute those responsible for the genocide, how to protect the Yazidi individuals in Iraq and abroad and how to promote and preserve Yazidi culture and identity.
“[The main goal of the symposium is to] bring in experts on a variety of subjects related to the Yazidi genocide, to address some of the legal, political, and social challenges facing the Yazidi community in the wake of the 2014 genocide, and to consider strategies to help, moving forward,” said the Director of Genocide Studies at Yale David Simon.
The Genocide Studies Program at the Yale Macmillan Center was founded in 1998 and conducts research, seminars and conferences on issues related to genocide in addition to trainings of researchers from genocide afflicted regions.
Hira Jafri, director of global programs at the MacMillan Center and one of the organizers of the symposium, told the News that she hopes the event will lead to more support for the Yazidi community.
“This symposium addresses an important concern of the world and an admittedly understudied group of people here at Yale,” Jafri said. “We hope that by bringing scholars, activists, and community organizers together we can tackle lingering questions and concerns that exist to support this community.”
Simon added that the University decided to focus on the Yazidi this year because they are currently a “particularly vulnerable group, as a double or even a triple minority,” and they have been the victims of a genocide several times in recorded history.
Simon said that the organizers decided to bring Murad to kick off the symposium because “she has a compelling story to tell, and a strong vision of what humanity must do in the face of threats of genocide.”
Attendees told the News that they found the event inspiring.
Zara Choudhry ’22 said Murad “clearly [has] lived through incredibly difficult things” and that it takes “a lot of courage” to share such experiences with others in order to help other Yazidis.
Aastha Kc ’20 said that Murad was “a very inspiring figure” who teaches people “to be vigilant about atrocities happening around the world.”
Around 200,000 Yazidis remain displaced today.