Yazidis have been forgotten during Covid. They need justice, jobs and a return home
Staring at the same four walls day after day, unable to find work, reunite with relatives, or send your children to school. The Covid pandemic has rendered this bleak picture a reality for many people across the globe. Yet for many who have survived or are living through conflict, these hardships are hardly novel.
For the Yazidi ethnic minority in Iraq, Islamic State’s 2014 genocide created adversity long before the pandemic ever did. For more than six years, hundreds of thousands of Yazidis have been in camps for internally displaced people (IDP) staring at the same four walls of their tents. They are unable to find work because Isis razed their farms and businesses. They cannot reunite with relatives still in Isis captivity or attend the burials of family members whose bodies remain in mass graves.
It will come as no surprise that the pandemic has made matters worse. As countries turn inward to cope with Covid’s impact, those on the periphery of protection – the displaced, conflict-afflicted and survivors of sexual violence – are pushed further into the margins. The consequences of this abandonment will probably be just as deadly and even more protracted than the pandemic.
At present, these consequences manifest in increased vulnerability to the Covid virus and a sharp decline in mental health. In the first 16 days of 2021, 11 young Yazidis took their own lives. Clustered cases of suicide have been surfacing in IDP camps since the 2014 genocide, but a precise picture of Yazidi mental health trends is muddled by a lack of resources for research and a failure to respond to the issue’s root causes.
A year on from the start of the world’s biggest health crisis, we now face a human rights pandemic. Covid-19 has exposed the inequalities and fragilities of health and political systems and allowed authoritarian regimes to impose drastic curbs on rights and freedoms, using the virus as a pretext for restricting free speech and stifling dissent.