In an episode that may comprise the 21st century’s clearest case of genocide so far, on August 3, 2014, ISIS troops invaded Sinjar, the central location of the Yazidi people, as well as the location of many important Yazidi cultural and religious sites.  By nightfall, Sinjar was effectively under ISIS control. An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 Yazidis – mostly men and elderly women – were killed. Approximately 6,000 – mostly women and children (both male and female) – were taken captive, to be held and sold as slaves, and then subject to repeated rape and beatings.  Young boys were pressed into military service as early as the age of seven. Tens of thousands fled the city to surrounding areas. 

ISIS and their allies intentionally targeted the Yazidi – an ethnic and religious group – for destruction.  Their acts corresponded precisely with those enumerated in the UN Genocide Convention: killing, causing serious bodily and mental harm, “inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction,” preventing births, and forcibly transferring children from one group to another.

As of July 2019, the risk of continued persecution – and even genocide – remains acute.  Although ISIS has been officially defeated, not a single conspirator or perpetrator of the genocide has been brought to justice – and hardly any even tried.  Extremists claiming to adhere to ISIS’s ideology continue to threaten people in the region.  Local communities – mostly comprised of Sunni Arabs – who collaborated with ISIS in the violence against the Yazidi live on in the area with impunity.  Iraqi and Kurdish forces struggle with one another for access to and control over the area around Sinjar, neither demonstrating a commitment to prioritizing the security of the Yazidis. Access to education, health services, jobs, and basic needs is poor, particularly for the Yazidi.

 “Before It’s Too Late – A Report Concerning the Ongoing Genocide and Persecution by the Yazidis in Iraq, and Their Need for Immediate Protection” was launched on July 30, 2019, a few days before the fifth anniversary of the onset of the genocide against the Yazidi people.  The report spells out the risks and challenges confronting the Yazidis of Iraq in simple, legally relevant terms, with reference to certain fundamental rights laid out in the UN Charter on Human Rights and to the Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes developed by the UN Office of the Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide.

Two of the lead authors of the Persecution Prevention Project report – Melinda Taylor and Sareta Ashraph – participated in a symposium entitled “The Yazidi Genocide: Prosecution, Protection, and Preservation,” hosted by the Genocide Studies Program in April 2019. The report reflects several of the insights gleaned at that symposium.

Resources for inquiries regarding “Before It’s Too Late


In the spring 2020 term at Yale, students in David Simon’s “Mass Atrocities and Global Politics” seminar composed a policy report, directed to the U.S. Department of State (indeed, predicated upon a mythical request for policy advice from the Secretary of State).  On the sixth anniversary of the gencoidal attach on Sinjar, an edited version of that report, called “TOWARDS JUSTICE AND SECURITY: PRINCIPLES AND POLICIES FOR THE YAZIDI IN 2020 AND BEYOND”, is now available, here.