According to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Frederica Mogherini, “Without justice, the most heinous crimes go unpunished. Victims are unable to obtain redress and peace remains an elusive goal since impunity generates more hatred.”
This statement highlights the present predicament of the Yezidis across the Middle East, of the Druze in Syria, and of the Hindus in countries like Bangladesh. In these cases, the victims ask when will there be justice for the victims. And they constantly wait for justice, yet never see it happening. The impunity of their persecutors in turn leads to increased feelings of hopelessness and despair, and encourages their tormentors to continue to harm them.
The benefits of international law are not applied to the Yezidis, Zoroastrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, the Hindus of Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Take the Yezidis for example. About four years ago, in August 2014, ISIS began slaughtering the Yezidis and committed a genocide against this ancient people, massacring over 5,000, abducting over 3,600 women who were then raped and enslaved. Over 500,000 of them were driven out of their ancestral lands.
According to Yezidi leader Sheikh Mirza Ismail, the Yezidi people have faced over 74 genocides: “Various Islamic sects organized genocidal campaigns against the Yezidi people in order to annihilate us from the face of the earth because the Yezidis do not want to change the faith that was given to them by God. During all of those 74 genocides, the Yezidis have always fought the brutal regimes on their own. You cannot find one time that the Yezidis got any help or support in order to fight against their adversaries.”
According to Ismail, in practice, the benefits of international law are not applied to the Yezidis, Zoroastrians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, the Hindus of Bangladesh and Pakistan, and other nations who are being abused with impunity: “How can the Yezidis receive justice when the UN and world leaders do not have respect for what is written in international law?
If the UN and five permanent members of the UN Security Council wanted to free the 3,000 Yezidi women who are still enslaved in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Muslim countries, they could put pressure on those countries and order them to hand over the Yezidi women and children. I recently heard that hundreds of young Yezidi women and children were transferred to Turkey from Syria by ISIS while ISIS is losing control in Syria.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 13 Druze women and 15 Druze children remain in ISIS custody after ISIS abducted 36 people when they attacked the predominately Druze Sweida Province, killing over 250 people. According to the report, there is little information regarding the condition that the hostages are being held under and whether or not they are being tortured. However, at least two of the hostages are now dead.
During the Syrian Civil War, there have been instances of radical Islamist groups forcefully converting members of the Druze faith to Islam. However, just like the Yezidis, the Druze hostages being held by ISIS are unlikely to receive any sort of justice. According to Al Arabiya, there have been talks with Assad’s regime and Russia to free the Druze hostages in exchange for releasing ISIS terrorists held by the Syrian government. If such a proposal were agreed upon, it may spare these Druze women and children any further suffering but at the same time, it would embolden ISIS to take additional hostages and to cause more suffering in Syria and throughout the world. Such a reality could lead to the Syrian Druze facing a similar fate to the Yezidis.
The plight of the Hindus in Bangladesh is not much better. According to Shipan Kumer Basu, President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, recently, a man together with his father and his uncle raped a helpless Hindu woman in Bangladesh and her daughter: “However, when the incident was reported to the police, they refused to register it as a rape case due to the prominent position the rapist held within the ruling Awami League party. This is a systematic issue in Bangladesh, where Hindu women and girls are raped by people associated with the ruling party and never receive any justice.
Whenever someone rapes or abducts or assaults or murders a Hindu, especially if the culprits are associated with the Awami League, the police refuse to take any action to help the victims. The Hindu victims cannot expect any justice from the Bangladeshi Police under the ruling Sheikh Hasina government. As a result, they are being slowly and gradually ethnically cleansed from the country.”
Elie Wiesel once stated, “The opposite of love is not hate. It’s indifference.” Indeed, the indifference of the international community to the plight of the Yezidis throughout the Middle East, to the Druze in Syria and to the Hindus in Bangladesh highlights how much justice is lacking in the world in which we live.
Most people are not haters, rapists, terrorists or thugs belonging to dictatorial regimes. However, most people also sit back and do nothing as the minorities are ethnically cleansed from the Muslim world. It is the indifference of the international community that is permitting the ethnic cleansing of religious and ethnic minority groups from the Islamic world at large - and this indifference must be brought to an end!
Rachel Avraham is the President of the Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi Center for Human Rights in Middle East (under formation) and is a political analyst at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research and Public Relations. She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian female suicide bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.”