DNA tools needed to identify Yazidis slaughtered by ISIS: Iraqi lawmaker

Iraq’s only female Yazidi lawmaker said investigations to document crimes against her minority group is still ‘ongoing’

Dina al-Shibeeb
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Iraq’s only female Yazidi lawmaker has said that documentation of ISIS’ “genocide” against her own people is continuing, but far more needs to be done.

Vian Dakhil, who is known for her fervent plea over the plight of the Yazidi minority group whom she belongs to, said that efforts to identify bodies found in more than 20 mass graves have been hampered for a simple reason: there is no DNA testing equipment in Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdish region.


The killing of between 2,000 to 5,000 men in a northern town known for its Yazidi population after a surprise attack by ISIS militants in August 2014 has now become known as a Sinjar massacre. While the men were killed, thousands of women and children were taken and enslaved by ISIS. Other fled to the nearby Mount Sinjar.

“We do not have specialized equipment and medical material specialized to test DNA of the corpses found in the mass graves,” said Dakhil. The lawmaker is a member of the Baghdad parliament’s Kurdistan Alliance.

“There needs to be DNA testing to prove the identity of these victims,” she said.

Due to the need, the parliamentarian said that Kurdistan’s regional government in Erbil has asked Iraq’s health ministry for help.

While the Baghdad ministry “expressed their willingness,” she said, actions still fall short.

Iraq’s capital has recently witnessed large protests urging the prime minister to push forward with reforms to tackle corruption.

“It seems they are busy with many other things.”

genocide protest ap
genocide protest ap

An official from Yazda, a US-based NGO team helping the Yazidis document crimes against their minority told Al Arabiya English that another NGO, the Bosnia-based International Committee on Missing Persons, had partnered with the Kurdish government in Erbil and provided the essential equipment.

“They have all the required DNA testing equipment necessary,” said Andrew Slater, who heads up Yazda’s documentation team.

He added: “As I understand it, all DNA samples will be sent to their laboratories in Europe for testing.”

In January, Yazda released a report confirming 22 mass grave sites with Yazidi bodies. The report described 13 other sites located in territories liberated from ISIS but has not visited them yet.

“In over a year since the liberation of the north side of the mountain, no public report that Yazda is aware of has been issued by the [Kurdish government] on the mass graves,” the report said. “No findings of any documentation efforts have been published.”

The report also called for a “full and transparent account of the crimes against humanity around Sinjar.”

On Nov. 13 last year, forces from the Iraqi Kurdish government freed Sinjar after a major offensive against ISIS. The operation was led by Peshmerga forces with US air support and the help from Yazidi fighters.

Asked if a report detailing crimes against the Yazidi people has been made public, Slater, the NGO official, said “we are not aware of any other reports published on this issue yet.”

However, the Iraqi lawmaker described investigations to document crimes against her minority group as still “ongoing.”

“There are more than 20 graves that were discovered in Sinjar, mostly of people who were executed, either from behind or in another brutal way. Many of them were children, and there were old people,” said Dakhil.

Dakhil said the Kurdish government had provided more help to the Yazidis than Baghdad had.

She urged the government in the Iraqi capital to “adopt” the Yazidi’s plight in order to make the issue resonate and gain more attention in the international community.

The Kurdish government was so far able to liberate 2,150 women from ISIS captivity, and was looking to rescue 3,500 more, she said.

There are also around 1,060 children - whose ages range from 8 to 12 - that are “being brainwashed in ISIS’ military camps.”

Dakhil defended her country, saying that Iraq was “not a failed state.” But she urged Baghdad to do more to help the Yazidis.

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