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”The year is 2015. Despite that, we have to buy off our women and children, we have to pay for their freedom. It is nothing less than a human market that exists today”. These are the concluding words of Vian Dakhil, the only female of Yazidi ethnicity in the Iraqi Parliament, who manages to transform the seminar about the political, social and military situation in Iraq into a humanitarian issue. Vian points out that she represents the entire population, but she wants to draw particular attention to the Iraqi minorities – who currently experience one of the most horrible crimes in human history.

We are gathered at the Folke Bernadotte Academy for a specific reason; to discuss the way forward in Iraq. The political situation in the world, especially in the Middle East, is something that the world can no longer be isolated from. With a constant presence of the armed terrorist organization ISIS and a state without control over large parts of its territory, Iraq is facing a range of security challenges. That the Iraqi population is under an extreme threat is no exaggeration. In their struggle for survival, an ever-growing number is on the run for a safe haven. Some have managed to escape and cross borders, but the majority is still chained in their own country. That this is an urgent situation and a collective international responsibility is out of discussion. The tricky question is what we should do about it and how we should do it. Which is the most urgent issue, what is required to combat ISIS and how will the nation manage to reconcile in the peace process?

The biggest worry for Dr. Saleem al-Jbury, the Iraqi President, is the risk for a national division. The relationship between different ethnic groups in Iraq was complex even before ISIS existence. Therefore, the quest for national and social reconciliation between ‘all Iraq components’ will be the primary focus during the peace process. However, al-Jbury seems optimistic about his country’s future. He does not diminish that the liberation process is slow and will require international response; nevertheless he says it’s a progressive course.

“ISIS is not a unique phenomenon. We have seen similar extremist groups before. They are possible to defeat. And they will be defeated”.

According to al-Jbury, the main aim right now is to lift our eyes from the ground and focus on the aftermath of ISIS . To build a state of law and order, arms control and peaceful coexistence. To create a state that eradicates the risk for the rise of a new group with the same agenda.

But Vian Dakhil is critical. For the oppressed, abducted and dishonored people caught in ISIS reign of terror, the future is less bright. As a Yazidi herself, Vian asks the unanswered question; how is it possible for us to reconcile with our neighbors, with those who expelled and violated us? To live in peace with those who raped and tortured us, who murdered our sisters and relatives, blew up our temples, mosques, churches and homes?

Just like al-Jbury, Vian asks for outside support. But not primarily for financial assistance or military investments, but for humanitarian aid, health care and trauma support. She cries that the world stops turning a blind eye to the ongoing human rights abuses and finally begins to combat the causes of the contemporary humanitarian disaster – especially the widespread sexual and gender-based violence. Without such assistance, al-Jburys dream of a unified Iraq has an even lesser chance to become reality.

“Peacebuilding is like a crossroad – either we burn up in chaos, or we build a future.” It cannot get more spot on than that. The question is which path we choose to take?

Stina Larsson
Intern, Operation