10 Facts About the Genocide of Yazidis by ISILIslamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State, is an insurgent group operating in Iraq and Syria. Its propaganda is centered around brutality towards its enemies and those who violate Islamic law. Here are 10 facts about the genocide of Yazidis by ISIL.

Top Yazidis Genocide Facts

  1. The Yazidis are a Kurdish religious minority who live in Iraq, Syria, the Caucasus region and some parts of Turkey and Iran. Their religion has elements of Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. The Yazidis were subjected to genocide several times under the Ottoman rule in the 18th and 19th centuries for their beliefs. On August 3, 2014, ISIL attacked the Yazidi living in Sinjar (Iraq).
  2. The most important of the facts about the genocide of Yazidis by ISIL is the orchestrated attack that was a part of a wider offensive to take control of minorities and Christians, who were asked to convert to Islam or pay religious taxes to stay alive. However, the Yazidis were declared infidels and “devil-worshippers” who deserved to be exterminated from the face of the earth.
  3. Tens of thousands of Yazidis had to flee to Mount Sinjar. They remained trapped there for days and many died of hunger and dehydration, while hundreds were massacred by ISIL. On August 7, 2014, the U.S. announced military action to help the trapped Yazidis at the request of the Iraqi government.
  4. Around 10,000 Yazidis were either killed or captured in August 2014 alone, out of which 3,100 were murdered by gunshots, beheaded and burned alive.
  5. In addition to the killings, ISIL systematically separated the women to rape, sexually mutilate and sterilize while many children were sent to training camps.
  6. The sexual violence against Yazidi women captured by ISIL is the most talked about among the facts about the genocide of Yazidis by ISIL. Around 7,000 women were sold as sex slaves or handed to jihadists as concubines. Girls as young as nine were sold off to Islamic State fighters, routinely raped and punished with extreme violence when they tried to escape. Children were killed as a means to punish their mothers for resisting.
  7. Mass graves were found with bodies of older women who could not command a price in the sex market. These mothers and grandmothers were not considered young or beautiful enough to rape, so they were simply taken behind the technical institute to be shot down in Solagh, east of Sinjar.
  8. Videos were recorded of “converted” Yazidi men and boys urging their relatives to convert to Islam and were then shown in all the holding sites. Families that obeyed were reunited. However, ISIL determined in the spring of 2015 that all conversions by Yazidis were false and separated all the reunited families.
  9. The Yazidi shrines of Sheikh Mand, Sheikh Hassan, Malak Fakhraddin and Mahma Rasha were destroyed following the attack. Yazidi homes were marked with symbols to distinguish them from others so that they could be looted and destroyed.
  10. The United Nations has classified the attacks on Yazidis by ISIL as genocide in its report, stating “ISIS has sought to erase the Yazidis through killings; sexual slavery, enslavement, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and forcible transfer causing serious bodily and mental harm; the infliction of conditions of life that bring about a slow death; the imposition of measures to prevent Yazidi children from being born, including forced conversion of adults, the separation of Yazidi men and women, and mental trauma; and the transfer of Yazidi children from their own families and placing them with ISIS fighters, thereby cutting them off from beliefs and practices of their own religious community.”

– Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights Abuses in North Korea
The Kim regime has continued to inflict disturbing human rights abuses in North Korea on its people. As a result, to help keep America as well as innocent citizens of North Korea safe, the House has voted unanimously on a critical and bipartisan North Korea human rights bill.

According to Newsweek, North Korea’s authoritarian regime has “snatched” teenagers out of their schools to be Kim Jong-un’s apparent sex slaves, forces members of the country’s upper class to watch executions and its leaders are perfectly content to eat expensive foods while the rest of his people subsist on grass.

Reuters recently reported that executions are often carried out in prison camps to instill fear and intimation among prison inmates that are contemplating an escape attempt. Public executions are carried out for minor crimes and distribution of South Korean media can also lead to execution.

According to NK Daily, a person in North Korea can be sentenced to death for communicating with the outside world, and a minimum of ten years of reeducation is the punishment for listening to South Korean media or another foreign radio.

The bill to combat human rights abuses in North Korea is a reauthorization of a 2004 North Korea human rights law that will add to the measure of new provisions aimed at spreading uncensored information throughout the country to inform the citizens of North Korea what is happening in the outside world. It will enact important snippets of updates that have to do with freedom and technological advances that are beyond radio broadcasting.

Chairman Ed Royce and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy recently stated that “the truth is Kim Jong-un’s greatest enemy. So as we step up sanctions to cut off the cash that funds Kim’s nuclear program, we must also break down barriers to truth in North Korea. This bill will update critical efforts to get real, accurate information into the hands of North Koreans through radio broadcasts, USB drives, mobile devices, and more. When Kim Jong-un has to answer to the North Korean people, he will pose far less danger to us.”

– Sara Venusti

Photo: Flickr

Building Toilets in IndiaKnown as the home of the magnificent Taj Mahal and the world’s largest democracy, the subcontinent of India lies in South Asia and borders both Pakistan and China.

Although India has significantly improved its infrastructure and is now one of the world’s fastest growing economies, much of the population continues to lack access to basic sanitation facilities such as toilets and clean running water. An astounding 500 million people in India resort to open defecation, accounting for 60 percent of the world’s population who do so. Unexpectedly, an Indian romantic comedy aptly named “Toilet, a Love Story” has been instrumental in pushing the need for building toilets in India into the spotlight.

With a renewed focus on providing more access to toilets, Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, has promised to build 100 million new toilets across the country. Additionally, he started a new cleanliness initiative called Clean India mission in 2014 that will attempt to make India open defecation-free by 2019. According to the Indian government, 47 million toilets have already been built in rural villages and public areas, but many have criticized the program for its many failures. New toilets are being built around the country so rapidly that many of them are not even connected to running water, rendering them dirty to the point that few use them. The Indian government must focus on adding additional sewage systems throughout the country in order to properly handle the increase in toilets.

Even if toilets are built, there needs to be an entire shift in mindset before open defection will stop. For many Indians, having a toilet inside a house is considered an unclean practice, so there needs to be tangible steps taken to confirm that the newly built toilets are actually being used. Educating communities, particularly rural ones, about the undeniable health benefits of utilizing toilets, is a worthwhile pursuit. With many families using toilets as a store house for fodder, India’s government must dedicate time and resources to bringing the serious harms of open defecation to the forefront of public health issues.

The lack of basic sanitation often leads to epidemics of dangerous diseases, including potentially fatal ones such as cholera, which are spread through fecal matter. Furthermore, water sources and crops are commonly contaminated by open defecation, but many lack the awareness or the resources to properly clean their food and water before consuming it, leading to thousands of deaths every year. In addition to the need for a larger effort into raising awareness of the benefits of building toilets in India, resources need to be invested into infrastructure for waste management.

Also, the lack of sanitation facilities has proven to be an issue for women’s rights and human dignity. Without access to toilets, women in rural villages are often forced to travel in groups and are only able to relieve themselves before the sun rises in order to ensure their safety. Unfortunately, these groups of women are often met with verbal and sometimes physical abuse. Sexual assault remains a frighteningly common occurrence for Indian women who are forced to relieve themselves in open fields.

Several studies have shown that lack of access to private toilets frequently make women significantly more susceptible to sexual violence. According to a senior police officer in the state of Bihar, about 400 women were raped while they relieved themselves outside simply because they did not have access to a private toilet. Rapidly and effectively ending open defecation must be of the utmost urgency, as millions of Indian women continue to endure vicious sexual violence on a daily basis.

With toilets being a taboo subject in India, there are undoubtedly serious obstacles to be overcome if India wishes to end open defecation, which is linked to sexual violence and the spread of disease. “Toilet, a Love Story” has gone a long way in helping Indians openly discuss and raise awareness of the dangers of continuing to avoid building toilets in India. If there is to be lasting success, the Indian government must prioritize shifting the public’s mindset away from believing that toilets are unclean as well as build an accompanying sewage system alongside the new toilets.

Akhil Reddy

Photo: Google

Providing Bicycles to Families in AfricaFor many children living in rural villages in Africa, the most valuable educational tool is not a pencil or a notebook: it is a bicycle. Several organizations are providing bicycles to families in Africa as a means of bringing education, health services and economic stability to entire communities.

In Zambia, children often have to walk miles to get to school. They might arrive late, miss early classes and face an embarrassing punishment from the teacher. This is a particular problem for girls, who are expected to complete household chores before even starting on their journey.

In 2014, World Bicycle Relief donated 100 bikes to students and faculty at a primary school in Zambia. Now that she rides her bike to school, one girl said she can put all of her energy into concentrating in class, and she has time to study in the evenings.

Providing bicycles to families in Africa also allows them to improve their economic situations. Steel workers and chicken farmers can carry larger and heavier loads to the market. In Zambia, dairy farmers have increased their deliveries by up to 25 percent. Mine workers and door-to-door salesmen use bicycles to shorten their commutes. They save time and energy and are able to afford necessities like food and school supplies.

Women in Sierra Leone and Ghana are responsible for the vast majority of the household chores. As with the men, women use the bicycles to balance heavy materials and travel long distances. For women and girls, however, owning a bike is a form of protection–against sexual assault. Put simply, no man can outrun them anymore.

Despite this, it is far more unlikely for a woman to have access to a bicycle. In places like Sierra Leone, women are discouraged from riding bikes in the belief that it causes them to lose their virginity. Boys and men commandeer the household bicycle, claiming that the women don’t have time to learn how to ride it. However, many organizations are working against this idea: for example, the Village Bicycle Project operates a month-long Learn to Ride program for women and girls in Ghana and Sierra Leone.

Presenting one woman with a bike can improve life for an entire community. In villages in Zambia where HIV is prevalent, taking care of the sick often falls to Community Healthcare Volunteers (CHVs). They care for elderly men and women, orphaned children and those suffering from AIDS. After receiving a bicycle, one female healthcare worker was able to increase the number of patients she visited per day from four to 18.

Providing bicycles to families in Africa not only empowers rural villagers, but it also has positive implications for the environment. The organization Ghana Bamboo Bikes constructs bicycles out of bamboo, an eco-friendly material that, unlike wood, will not result in damage to Ghana’s rainforests.
The bicycles are built to be light, yet stable–good for navigating the roads of rural Ghana. The organization also teaches young men and women with little education how to build the bikes, offering them a job skill that will prove valuable as the demand for bicycles in Africa continues to grow.

Emilia Otte

Human TraffickingHuman trafficking is a disturbing crisis that affects individuals of all ages, sexes and races at a global level. It is a crime that is often regarded as one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. According to data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, human trafficking in the United States rose 35.7 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Human trafficking is essentially a form of modern-day slavery, where traffickers will use force, fraud or coercion to control victims. The two most common forms of human trafficking are sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Sex trafficking has been found in a multitude of venues within the sex industry, including residential brothels, escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs and street prostitution. Labor trafficking is found in a variety of labor settings such as domestic work, small businesses, large farms and factories.

Trafficking exists due to two major factors: low risk and high profits. Human traffickers tend to see little risk in these criminal operations. Although there have been increasing investigations, penalties and prosecutions throughout the years, the high profit potential from committing these crimes makes them worth the risk for many. There is often a lack of government and law enforcement training with these situations, as well as many in a community not being aware of the threat, ineffective laws, scarce resources to help victims recover and even social blaming of victims. Many of these high profits include when individuals are willing to buy commercial sex, whether it be from children or adults, and many consumers are willing to buy services from industries that rely on forced labor.

 

Top Facts on Human Trafficking:

 

  1. Globally, the average cost of a slave is $90.
  2. While 19 percent of trafficking involves labor exploitation, 80 percent of trafficking involves sexual exploitation.
  3. There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today.
  4. About 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, and 80 percent are female while half are children.
  5. Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry—just behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking—and reportedly generates a profit of $32 billion every year. Of the $32 billion, $15.5 billion is made in industrialized nations.
  6. According to the International Labour Organization, it is estimated that women and girls represent the largest share of trafficking victims when it comes to forced labor with 11.4 million (55 percent), compared to men at 9.5 million (45 percent).
  7. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the greatest numbers of traffickers stem from Asia, Central Europe, Southeastern Europe and Western Europe.

The Department of Homeland Security has a page that can help one recognize the signs of human trafficking, as well as a page on further identifying a victim with hotlines to call to report suspicious criminal activity to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Being informed on human trafficking as well as the proper steps to take when potentially encountering a trafficking victim could save someone from an unfortunate and disturbing fate.

Sara Venusti

Photo: Flickr

Female Victims of Sex Trafficking in India Get a Second ChanceMillions of women and children in India are victims of sex trafficking. The National Crimes Records Bureau states that a girl falls victim to sex trafficking every eight minutes in India. Many are told that they will be assisted in finding a job or even a potential marriage to alleviate them of their poverty, making them trusting of traffickers and easier targets for prostitution.

In 2014, police in India recorded 2,604 sex trafficking cases, but more than three-quarters of the traffickers accused went unpunished. The Better India states that “less than 50 child prostitution cases in a year lead to successful convictions on average.” Current laws are not effective enough in preventing human trafficking in India.

The Dutch anti-trafficking group Free a Girl created a new approach to the sex trafficking issue in India, called The School for Justice. It launched in April of this year with 19 women who were victims of sex trafficking in India. Not only are these women training to be lawyers but they are also gaining empowerment in a community in which they are ostracized.

The program financially and emotionally supports the process. It enrolls them into a university so that they can receive a bachelor’s degree in law. The rescued girls live in a house together while receiving food and an education to prepare them for a future career. For each student in The School for Justice program, it costs $3,400 per year which is covered by donors for the first two years.

Having women who were once trafficked as prostitutes become members of India’s legal system is a huge step for the country. Not only are females that are trafficked not welcome back with their families, they are also more likely to be arrested. These women are not receiving the help that they need once they escape sex trafficking in India.

The main goal of The School for Justice is to provide the help and resources needed to create prosecutors out of the victims of trafficking in India. This could be a small change that eventually leads to holding traffickers accountable for their actions and keeping women and children out of trafficking. Per The Better India, “not only will these brave women finally be able to chart a course of their own life but they will also be saving the lives of others like themselves in the process.”

Mackenzie Fielder
Photo: Flickr

Sex Workers in Cambodia
Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia known for sex tourism. With the highest rate of HIV infection in Asia, sex workers in Cambodia are likely to contract HIV, which causes AIDS.

An estimated 10 to 40 million women sell sex around the world, the majority of whom are mothers looking for a way to support their families. In Cambodia, where 36% of the population lives below the poverty line and only 30% of girls attend schools, women are desperate to make a living for themselves and their families. Girls from poor, rural families come to cities where they can make a living in the sex industry. The average age of sex workers is 29.

Abortion and AIDS are the most common cause of death among sex workers in Cambodia. According to a study by Global Health Promise, a nonprofit based in Portland, sex workers are 12 times more likely to be infected with HIV than other women. HIV is passed from mother to child to during pregnancy, and children of sex workers are most likely to die from AIDS than any other cause.

Unprotected sex in brothels and entertainment hubs in Cambodia is common. Although abortion is legal in Cambodia, public clinics often do not provide the procedure. Women are forced to use other methods and may use traditional practices like deep massage abortion, which can cause fatal hemorrhages.

With in the next five years, it is expected that 200,000 children in Cambodia will be orphaned by AIDS, and at least 15,000 will be HIV-positive. Life-saving AIDS drugs cost $500 per year for a child. Drugs provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) are received by only 3,000 people out of the 170,000 infected with HIV.

With the assistance of the WHO, the Cambodian government is making efforts to reduce and treat HIV among sex workers. The 100% Condom Use Program (CUP) Pilot Project aims to prevent the transmission of HIV from high-risk groups, including sex workers, to low-risk groups, like housewives. It also aims to control STIs through condom use and provide access to outreach programs for all sex workers.

Organizations like Hope for Justice recognize the importance of education and have established schools for sex trafficking survivors. Sunrise New Hope is another organization that is working to restore hope, dignity and promise to sex workers and provides free education, medical and welfare services.

A commitment by local authorities is needed to help stop the spread of HIV.  Moreover, girls must have access to education to be able to find other employment with which they can support their families. Working to eliminate poverty is key to reducing the spread of HIV among sex workers in Cambodia.

Aishwarya Bansal

Photo: Flickr

sexual_health_and_reproduction
Access to sex education is not readily available in developing countries. Even more prevalent is the lack of access for younger people. Consequently, they do not receive information that could keep them safe.

Now, a new initiative is changing that.

Text messaging has remained a popular way for young people in Cambodia to communicate. According to a 2014 study conducted by BBC Media Action, 96 percent of Cambodian youth have access to a cellular device. Of that amount, 30 percent use text messaging.

OneWorld UK capitalized on this idea, launching a conversation about a previously considered taboo topic. Their “Smart Youth, Good Future” initiative prompts discussion about sexual health and reproduction through an SMS text messaging service.

“Youngsters using the service will be able to communicate on a level they are used to and comfortable with,” says Sanary Kaing, OneWorld’s project officer.

Before the service was launched, many young people felt uncomfortable talking about sex education. The absence of knowledge prevented people from educating themselves about ways to keep each other safe, resulting in pregnancy, STDs and unsafe abortions.

“Very few parents discuss sexual and reproductive health with their children, and teachers are also very hesitant to discuss issues related to sexuality, even though they are incorporated into the school curriculum,” says Jeffery Allen, global programme coordinator for OneWorld U.K., one of the three NGOs running the pioneering project.

Women, in particular, felt uncomfortable bringing up the topic.

“Many women do not feel safe or comfortable accessing sexual and reproductive health information and services at public health facilities because they are afraid of what family and community members will think or say about them,” Allen adds.

OneWorld not only relies on the fact that many teenagers have cell phones. It also owes its success to the projects anonymity.

“It is a great opportunity for teenagers to access accurate, non-judgmental and confidential information and counseling,” Allen says.

OneWorld hopes that the service will continue to spark conversations about sex. While it is still too early to assess the success of the program, Allen says that a similar project garners between 250 and 1,000 messages a day.

Alyson Atondo

Sources: One World, IPS News, Medium
Photo: Flickr

sexual_health
There are more than 1 billion teenagers worldwide. Seventy percent of them live in developing countries. According to the Demographic and Health Surveys and the AIDS Indicators Survey, the average age that young people in impoverished countries have their first sexual encounter is, at the lowest, age 16 or younger, and, at the highest, 19.6.

Just like in developed nations, with sexual activity comes the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. Unlike wealthier nations, these impoverished countries lack adequate healthcare. In places such as Sub-Saharan Africa, AIDs is an epidemic. Two-thirds of those infected are adolescents.

Adolescent girls run the greatest risk for sexual and reproductive health threats. A young girl that becomes pregnant who lacks access to healthcare faces many serious health risks. Pregnancies, child-birth and abortions are all perilous. The likelihood that a 15-year-old girl in a developed nation could ultimately die of maternal complications is 1/3800. Compare this to just 1/150 in the developed world.

Meet Reem: she is a 15-year-old girl living as a refugee in a camp. Her two-month-old baby is underweight because it was born prematurely and because Reem was never taught how to breastfeed. She has no one to help her, her husband was killed before the baby was born, and her mother was separated from her in the national conflict.

In other instances, girls marry older men. Hibo is a 13-year-old girl living in a Somalian refugee camp. The oldest of five children, she is responsible for helping her mother care for the family. Her parents are planning to marry Hibo to a wealthy landowner that will bring the family much-needed money and honor. She has been told that it is her duty to marry, serve her husband, and bear him children.

Married women like Hibo are encouraged to have children as soon as possible. Their social status and identity are associated with raising children. Being childless is frowned upon. Unfortunately, wedding older men who have had previous partners bring the potential for STDs.

Young people also face the danger of sexual violence. A national survey in Swaziland revealed that one-third of girls aged 13-24 suffered sexual abuse before the age of 18. Boys face abuse as well but are reported as being less likely to reach out for help from healthcare providers.

Although young people are getting married at an older age, the amount of premarital intercourse is increasing. At the same time, contraceptive use for all teens is low. In Sub-Saharan Africa, contraceptives are used by a low of 3% of sexually active adolescents in Rwanda and a high 46% in Burkina Faso.

Due to the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals, more youth have greater access to formal education. Health officials decided that school-based sexual/reproductive health programs were the perfect way to educate adolescents. Yet, a survey of these programs and their effects have produced varied results. Not all adolescents attend school, and the funding for these programs is not always there.

The Save the Children organization understands that if there are no programs that specifically reach young people with sexual health programs and education, they will never access the care and knowledge they need. The organization has set up teen-accessible places to teach them about safe sex and offer health services.

Their methods and the continuation of school-based programs have been yielding promising results in places like Mexico, Nigeria and the Dominican Republic. Young people are taking more measures to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies.

Lillian Sickler

Sources: Guttmacher Institute, Women and Children First (UK), Alliance for International Youth Development
Photo: The Times

Red Cards to Stop Rape - The Borgen Project
Sexual violence can be addressed by two different questions:

1. How can we empower women to prevent sexual violence?

2. How can we empower men to change their attitudes and practices related to sexual violence?

Programs often tend to focus on addressing one question or the other. However, research organizations, such as the International Center for Research on Women, support both methods.

FHI 360, Family Health International, cites international data indicating, “one in three women worldwide experience physical and/or sexual violence by a partner or sexual violence by a non-partner in their lifetimes.”

The red card program has been used in Ethiopia and South Africa to address the first question of female empowerment.

When women attempt to avoid unwanted violence or contact from men, the word “no” often does not work. A comprehensive study by the ICRW indicates that the high prevalence of rape in Croatia, Mexico, Chile, Rwanda, and India is partially due to the fact that for some men, “no means yes”.

The red card programs train young women to be assertive in preventing unwanted sexual behavior from men. The analogy of the red card in soccer is used because both men and women associate the red card with the notion to stop some kind of action. Young women are provided with actual red cards that can help them be more assertive when they want to say “no” to unwanted behavior. Of course, “no” should mean “no,” and sexual violence can never be justified by a lack of “prevention” on the part of the victim. The only way to end rape is to have rapists stop raping.

The idea is that because the word “no” often does not work, the action of displaying the red card can be more effective. In Ethiopia, about half of the students who received training on the red card program have used it to “say no to sugar daddies, to abusive professors, to avoid violence, to refuse alcohol and other substances, and to insist on condom use.”

In South Africa, the program was implemented through Sonke Gender Justice Network, Grassroots Soccer and other NGOs. Mass media forms such as television and radio were used to target many people. Over 1,000 people completed the red card training with Sonke and over 12,000 people completed the program with Grassroots Soccer.

While the red card programs are innovative approaches to provide women with the power to avoid unwanted behavior in the immediate time, the ultimate goal would be for “no” to actually mean “no,” and for men to recognize and respect this. This is why institutions such as ICRW also support research and programs that will change the attitudes and practices of men.

– Iliana Lang

Sources: FHI 360 1, FHI 360 2, HCRW Publications, Africa Entertainment,
Photo: FHI 360