Kurdish security forces in Iraq close HQ of Yazidi NGO
DOHUK - Kurdish security forces closed the Iraqi headquarters of an organisation that aids members of the Yazidi religious minority, which has been brutally targeted by jihadists, the group said on Wednesday.
The move by the Iraqi Kurdish asayesh forces to close the Yazda organisation's offices in the northern city of Dohuk drew criticism from Human Rights Watch (HRW) as well as Nadia Murad, a Yazidi survivor of enslavement by the Islamic State group.
"A force from the asayesh raided the main Yazda headquarters in Dohuk on Monday afternoon... and ordered the closure of the headquarters and all Yazda projects in camps" for displaced people, the group said in an online statement.
According to Yazda, the government of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region accused it of illegal action or "engaging in political activities," and said that its work permit was expired.
"The Yazda organisation is not political and is not a political entity; rather, it is an organisation defending Yazidi rights in all places," it said, rejecting the accusations against it.
Kurdish authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Kurdish government's "authorities need to think hard about the consequences of Yazda's closure and reverse its decision in accordance with its international obligations to facilitate, not obstruct, humanitarian assistance," Belkis Wille, Iraq researcher at HRW, said in a statement.
"One person close to the organisation told me he suspected that the decision stemmed from Yazda's plan to support at least 3,000 families in Sinjar with livelihood materials, as part of a larger United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project," she said.
Wille said the programme runs counter to the policy of Kurdish authorities of restricting the movement of goods to Sinjar, a Yazidi area that was attacked by the Islamic State group in 2014.
She said that the Kurdish government sought to explain the policy by saying it fears that goods will end up in the hands of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Kurdish rebel group opposed to the Turkish government.
Yazidi activist Nadia Murad also called on Iraqi Kurdistan to reverse the decision, writing on social media that it is a "shame to close the (organisation) that supports my campaign."
Murad and another Yazidi woman who was kidnapped and repeatedly raped by IS won the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov human rights prize last year.
IS, which seized swathes of Iraqi territory in 2014, carried out a brutal campaign of massacres, kidnappings, enslavement and rape targeting members of the Yazidi community in the country's north.