Event Reports

Open Debates 6 - Recovery and Return of Yezidis and Christian Minorities in Iraq

Since 2014 and the rise of terrorism by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq, the Kurdistan Region has turned into a safe haven and a home to the displaced religious, ethnic and cultural diversity in Iraq. Among these minorities, Yezidis and Christians were the most targeted groups by ISIS. To discuss the current situation of the Yezidi and Christian communities in Iraq and analyze the challenges that both communities face when it comes to issues of return and recovery, the Syria/Iraq Office of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in collaboration with Open Think Tank and the American University of Kurdistan held a one-day conference in Dohuk. In particular, the conference focused on identifying the needs of these minorities as well as on debating concrete policies and measures that can ensure the persistence of both Yezidis and Christians in Iraq.

After the opening of the conference by Deputy President of the Kurdish Parliament Hemin Hawrami, the first topic on the agenda was the difficult recovery of the Yezidi community after the genocide by ISIS. On the one hand, legal issues such as the recognition of the genocide are among the concerns of the Yezidi community while on the other hand, there are many obstacles to the return of Yezidi IDPs from Kurdistan to their homeland in Sinjar. The majority of Yezidi people have been displaced as a consequence of the genocide; around 400.000 of them live in IDP camps in the Kurdistan region now, fearing their return because of a lack of security. Even if their safe return could be guaranteed, socio-economic challenge pertaining to their reintegration into the Iraqi social fabric would remain.

Although displaced for similar reasons, the fate of the Christian communities after the reign of ISIS was different and was therefore discussed in a separate panel. On an international level, the lack of support from other Christian communities was pointed out, while in Iraq, discrimination against Christians as well as a lack of rights and representation in politics was mentioned as the current concerns. Regarding the return of Christian IDPs, security issues play a big role but also the feeling of not being welcomed back. The place of Christians in the Iraqi social fabric has shrunk considerably. While before 2003, almost one million Christians lived in Iraq, the number dropped to between 15.000 to 20.000 due to persecution and religious extremism.

During the last panel of the conference, policy recommendations were formulated to ease the reintegration of both Yezidis and Christian minorities into the Iraqi society. All in all, the conference created a space for legislators, decision makers, political party leaders, as well as community and religious leaders from ethnic and religious minority groups to better understand the challenges, possibilities and attempts to return and recovery of the minorities in Iraq, especially after the ISIS war. In addition, a number of experts, academics, media and civil society representatives, representatives of embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions to Kurdistan Region and Iraq were present at the event, enrichening the discussion.

Contact Person

Jessy Daccache

Jessy  Daccache bild

Project Manager

Jessy.daccache@kas.de +961 (0) 1388 061/062 +961 (0) 1388 064
Contact Person

Lejla Djulancic

Lejla Djulancic

Project Manager

lejla.djulancic@kas.de +961 (0) 1388 061/062 +961 (0) 1388 064