Why France needs to recognize the Yazidi genocide

After Germany, Armenia, Belgium and recently the Netherlands, France must officially recognize the Yezidi genocide. A legal term strictly defined under the Rome Statute as the “intentional subjection of a group to conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”. This is what the Kurdish-speaking Yezidi community has experienced. On the night between the third and fourth of August 2014, hordes of jihadists swooped down on the small town of Sinjar to subjugate this minority, whom they consider to be subhuman and “devil worshippers.”

Seven millennia old, this religion venerates ancestral symbols found throughout Mesopotamia, such as the angel-peacock (“the emanation of God”). To Islamic supremacists, this is heresy. The 2014 genocide comes after decades of persecution and pogroms endured under the Ottoman Empire. Centuries of hateful and dehumanizing propaganda enabled this genocidal culmination.

« Which conclusions would have been drawn from the Shoah if Hitler and his lieutenants had been tried as simple terrorist leaders? »

Bashedly unreserved and certain to be in the right, Daech’s men entered the Yazidi villages to shatter their culture by any means necessary, separating the men from the women to be executed further in the mountains, assessing the women’s virginities to later sell them as if they were cattle. Kids were abducted, drugged and brought to reeducation camps, where fanatical masters teach them to hate their religion and decapitate in the name of Islam. 

The Yezidi genocide combines all the abuses that enable of disfiguring humanity: extermination, colonization and slavery. Its international recognition is only a question of time. International investigators began work only weeks after that first night of horror, making the Yezidi genocide the first genocide to be documented so quickly, almost in real time.


But their work has been hindered by red tape and a figurative minefield, two countries at war, Iraq and Syria, which have not signed the Rome Statute. It is abroad that recognition of the Yezidi genocide is making progress, thanks to the testimonies of its survivors and the efforts of NGOs.

As early as 2016, French parliamentarians voted for a resolution to recognize the ongoing “genocide.” Doing so on behalf of France would allow French jihadists who participated in it to be tried for “crimes against humanity” – not just “participation in a terrorist organization.”

This is a lengthier process, with crimes that are more delicate to demonstrate, but from which ensure longer, more just sentences. Those are the stakes of this recognition. To give justice to the victims and above all to defuse centuries of anti-Yezidi hatred. What lessons would we have learned from the Shoah if Hitler and his lieutenants had been tried as mere terrorist leaders?

Caroline Fourest