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Fellow raises awareness of Yezidi Iraqi plight

23 January 2015


“To tell the truth, I did not want to come here,” said Nareen Shammo. “After the August 2014 incident, I thought I needed to stay, my community needed me.”

Shammo was invited to Geneva to be part of the 2014 Minority Fellowship Programme. She is part of the Yezidi minority in Iraq. The Yezidi are a minority community numbering around 650,000 to 750,000 which lives primarily in northern Iraq.

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, they have been under increasing threats and attacks by Islamist militants. In August 2014, the community was subjected to a brutal attack by the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The attack left at least 1,000 dead, thousands of women and children abducted and thousands fleeing into the Mount Sinjar region to escape the violence.

Shammo participated in the five-week Minority Fellowship Programme of the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva. The programme provides an opportunity for national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities to learn how to use the UN human rights system of protection with an aim of better protecting and promoting minority rights in their home countries.

The biggest difficulty, Shammo said, is the feeling of abandonment by the very people who were supposed to protect the Yezidi. She said neither the Kurdish nor the Iraqi troops who were supposed to help them provided assistance.

The attacks made Shammo rethink taking part in the fellowship, but after talking with organizers, she decided to take part and she is pleased she did.

“I was able to come here and raise the voice of my community at the United Nations,” she said. “And more important, informing all of those who are meeting here that the case of Sinjar and the Yezidi is not over yet.”

Shammo has recently been featured on a BBC Arabic documentary, which highlighted her work tracking and making contact with kidnapped Yezidi women and helping to negotiate their return.

23 January 2015