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UK formally recognizes genocide against Yazidis by Islamic State

The United Kingdom is the latest country to recognize the 2014 mass slaughter of Yazidis by the Islamic State as genocide.
ZAID AL-OBEIDI/AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom joined the United Nations and 17 other governments and international bodies today in formally acknowledging that acts of genocide were committed against the Yazidi people by the Islamic State in 2014. 

The Minister of State for the Middle East, Lord Tariq Ahmad, announced the decision ahead of the Aug. 3 anniversary marking the jihadis’ killing spree that claimed the lives of at least 7,000 Yazidis, mostly men and boys, as they captured large swathes of Iraq and Syria and declared their now dismantled caliphate.

Ahmad said the United Kingdom would “continue to play a leading role in eradicating [the Islamic State], including through rebuilding communities affected by its terrorism and leading global efforts against its poisonous propaganda.” Alongside France, the United Kingdom is among the most active members of the US-led global coalition against the Islamic State. It is among a handful of coalition members that has troops on the ground in northeast Syria as part of ongoing efforts to degrade and destroy IS remnants.

However, it has been sharply criticized for refusing to repatriate UK nationals who joined the jihadis and are currently held in overcrowded and underfunded prisons and internment camps in northeast Syria and most controversially for stripping Shamima Begum, an IS bride, of her UK citizenship.

The UK government’s decision to recognize the mass butchering of the Yazidis as a genocide followed the Nov. 31 ruling by a German Federal Court of Justice, which found a former Islamic State fighter guilty of acts of genocide and crimes against humanity. “The UK’s position has always been that determinations of genocide should be made by competent courts, rather than by governments or non-judicial bodies,” the government statement read. Germany, more than any other state, has worked to help the Yazidis, welcoming more than a thousand women and children abducted and sexually abused by IS and prosecuting and convicting those involved in war crimes against them.

Yazidi community leaders are cautiously optimistic that the growing number of foreign countries formally acknowledging the genocide will add pressure on Iraq’s federal government to disburse billions of dollars earmarked for rebuilding their shattered lives and towns.

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