Genocide and aftermath for Yazidi women -2-

Change of Yazidi women in the mountains of Shengal

In the second articles of our article series, we focus on the first council created by the Yazidi women, the development of women’s movement, education and diplomacy after the genocide.


Shengal- After the genocide committed by ISIS against the Yazidi community, the Yazidi women displayed a great resistance and began to take part in the decision-making mechanisms. Riham Heco, a coordinating member of the Yazidi Free Women's Movement (TAJÊ) told NuJINHA about the development of women after the genocide.

“The formation of the first women’s council created a great excitement in us,” Riham Heco said the formation of the council was the first step for Yazidi women to form their own defense units.

“Women began to organize themselves in addition to their self-defense. In 2015, the first women’s council was formed. When the women’s council was formed, Shengal was under the siege of ISIS. Only the humanitarian corridor was open. Due to the ongoing attacks of ISIS, the corridor was sometimes closed. A council consisting of 15 women was formed in the mountains of Shengal. Mothers formed the council. When the council was formed, the situation of the Yazidi women was very bad. A genocide took place in Shengal and thousands of Yazidi women were abducted by ISIS and more lost their husbands, children, parents, villages and houses.”

“They helped by taking all risks”

Stating that all Yazidis lost their relatives and suffered a lot, Riham Heco talked about the activities of the council.

“The members of the council first shared the sufferings of women and listened to their stories by visiting families. It held meetings and seminars to provide psychological support to them. At that time, neither Iraq nor the Kurdistan Region nor any of the organizations calling themselves human rights organizations came here to help the people and they preferred to stay away from Shengal due to the presence of ISIS. But the women’s council did its best to help women by taking all risks. At that time, there were the women’s council, HPG-YJA-Star-YBŞ-YJŞ forces, the members of the Autonomous Administration and small defense groups formed by the Yazidis.”

“Men did not want to share the decision-making positions with women”

Indicating that the council then opened offices in Xanesor and Borik villages, Riham Heco said that the formation of the offices was not easy.

“At that time, the formation of the offices of the Yazidi women’s council was not easy. Society, particularly men, did not want women to take part in the councils and they opposed the women’s participation in the councils. The women’s movement faced many challenges in every step taken by them in Shengal. The management system of the Autonomous Administration is based on the co-presidency system. However, men did not accept equal participation. The men, who made decisions alone, did not want to share the decision-making positions with women. Against this, the women’s council waged a great struggle. Today, the women's movement leads the Democratic Autonomous System in Shengal thanks to the struggle of the women’s council.”

Announcement of the establishment of the TAJÊ

Underlining that as the struggle against ISIS got stronger, the number of the liberated areas increased, Riham Heco said that more women joined the struggle after the liberation of the villages and towns.

“As women learned how to organize themselves more, they began to take steps in all spheres of life. The women’s council could not find solutions to all problems. For this reason, the women held their first congress and the women’s council turned into the women’s movement. The women reorganized themselves in many fields such as diplomacy, education, culture and arts, economy and defense. They determined their policy and organizational methods to implement in Shengal. In 2016, the establishment of the Yazidi Free Women's Movement (Tevgera Azadîya Jinên Êzîdî-TAJÊ) was announced. Women’s councils were formed in every village. In 2019, the TAJÊ held its second congress. In 2019, Shengal was liberated from ISIS and thousands of families returned to Shengal.”

“Education is more necessary than water for Yazidi women”

Emphasizing that Yazidi women are deprived of everything throughout their lives, Riham Heco stressed that the women should change their fate now. Indicating that the women’s movement makes efforts to raise awareness of women, Riham Heco said, “Now, the main agenda of the movement is education for women. The first aim of the women’s movement is to raise awareness of women and the public about how education is important. Education is more necessary than water for Yazidi women.”

Educational activities

After the genocide, the Yazidi community first learned how to use weapons in order to protect themselves. In 2016, Martyr Binevş Agal Academy was opened to educate women. Since the academy was opened, 64 educational activities have been organized by the academy.

Yazidi women strengthen their struggle through diplomacy

 Noting that Yazidi women attach importance to diplomacy in order to share their experiences, Riham Heco addressed all women all over the world.

 “Yazidi women faced many things; however, they did not share what they faced until now. They had difficulties in sharing them or did not find any opportunity to share them. The Yazidi women attached importance to diplomacy in order to share what they experienced. Now, they have a diplomacy committee to reach everywhere and share their experiences with women all around the world. The burden of our struggle is very heavy; we cannot carry it alone, all women around the world should be in solidarity with us to carry it together.”

 Yazidi women stand on their own feet

 Mentioning that women were also economically oppressed in society, Riham Heco said that women's struggle has also changed this.

 “The women used to depend on their fathers, brothers and all men in their lives. The struggle waged by women after the genocide promoted women's economic empowerment. If men could earn money, women also could earn. Women waged a great struggle to change the mindset of their society about women. Now, we support many women’s projects and we develop many projects for women. As the women’s movement, our aim is to establish women’s communes, hold workshops in order to promote women’s economic empowerment and create spaces for women.”




Tomorrow: Yazidi women still held by ISIS and women rescued from ISIS