Armenia’s parliament unanimously passed on Tuesday a resolution recognizing as genocide the 2014 mass killings of Yazidis in Iraq which were committed by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.
The National Assembly also called on the international community to track down and prosecute those directly responsible for the killings and “take measures to ensure the security of the Yazidi population.”
Thousands of Yazidis were seized by IS when it overran Iraq's northwestern town of Sinjar in August 2014, and most of them remain unaccounted for. The town was regained from IS in late 2015 and 30 mass graves of Yazidis have since been found there. But an unknown number of the ethnic minority, which practices a unique religion that IS considers heretical, was moved to neighboring Syria.
The U.S. government officially declared in March 2016 that IS is “responsible for genocide” against Yazidis as well as Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria. A subsequent report released by United Nations investigators similarly concluded that the Islamist militants’ actions against Yazidis meet a 1948 UN convention’s definition of genocide.
In its resolution, the Armenian parliament said it “recognizes and strongly condemns the genocide of the Yazidi people perpetrated by terrorist groups in 2014 in Iraqi territory controlled by them.”
The main sponsor of the resolution is Rustam Makhmudian, the parliament’s sole ethnic Yazidi member representing the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Presenting the document to fellow lawmakers on Monday, Makhmudian drew parallels between the 2014 atrocities against Iraqi Yazidis and the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman Turks also killed and displaced many Yazidis during the First World War. Thousands of them fled to what is now the Republic of Armenia.
There are an estimated 50,000 Yazidis living in Armenia at present, making them the country’s single largest ethnic minority.
President Serzh Sarkisian condemned the mass killings and deportations of Iraqi Yazidis shortly after they were first reported in the summer of 2014. Sarkisian instructed Armenia’s Foreign Ministry and diplomatic missions abroad to “redouble their efforts to adequately raise the issue in the international arena.”
The move followed a series of street protests staged by Yazidis in Yerevan. They said that the Armenian government is slow to react to the atrocities.
In April 2016, leaders of Armenia’s Yazidi community inaugurated a memorial in downtown Yerevan to Yazidis and other people massacred by the IS extremists. Said Avdalian, the leader of a Yazidi youth group, hailed the Armenian parliamentary resolution on Tuesday as a “historic event.”