KRG will continue to protect Yezidi survivors, says PM Barzani
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdistan Region will continue to protect and shelter the Yezidi survivors of sexual violence and children born of war if they are not accepted by their religious community due to stigma and social rejections, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said on Wednesday in Erbil.
PM Barzani’s remarks were in response to a question from the German Press Agency (dpa) during a joint press conference with German Minister for Foreign Affairs Annalena Baerbock, with whom he met earlier on Wednesday.
“If they [survivors] will not be accepted due to cultural restraints, we will provide them with security, shelter, livelihoods, and childcare,” PM Barzani said at the press conference, adding his government considers these survivors as “victims.”
The premier said he hoped the Yezidi community would “embrace” these survivors, thousands of whom were sexually enslaved, tortured, and abducted by ISIS, following the 2014 offensive of Sinjar.
“These women and children [born of war] are innocent,” PM Barzani said.
The premier reiterated his government’s commitment to rescue Yezidis, who are still in ISIS captivity.
The children born of violence do not have the backing of a “strong tribe” or communal support, but they are still entitled to universal rights, the German minister said.
Regarding the return of Yezidis to their places of origin, PM Barzani and the German Minister stressed a “dignified” return of the displaced population, who still face hurdles, including the lack of services and security challenges due to the ongoing presence of militia forces.
In addition to social rejections, survivors and their children face economic, legal, and religious barriers that force some women to abandon their children.
The officials discussed strengthening bilateral relations between Erbil and Berlin, greater cooperation in economic and energy sectors, as well as Erbil-Baghdad relations.
Germany recognized the atrocities committed against the Yezidi as genocide this year.
Kurdish support for IDPs, quake-affected Turkey
The German diplomat praised the Kurdistan Region’s early assistance to the quake-affected areas in Turkey as well as to the displaced people fleeing the ISIS war.
The Region’s relief efforts have been well-received by the international community, the minister said.
“We highly appreciate these efforts,” she said, adding Germany would continue its assistance for the Region.
As the threat from ISIS is ongoing in Iraq, Germany would continue its security assistance to Kurdish and Iraqi forces, the minister responded to a question from Kurdistan 24’s Hoshamnd Sadiq.
Berlin has provided 50 million euros since 2016 in assistance to the security sector.
Germany, as a major member of the international coalition against ISIS, has been helping Kurdish and Iraqi forces with training and other military support since 2014.
It is currently providing advice to the Peshmerga reform program, aimed at unifying Kurdish forces and modernizing the military.
Erbil: center of German-Iraqi cultural exchange
The Kurdistan Region’s capital Erbil is “the center” of the Iraqi-German cultural ties, as most of the European country’s educational and cultural programs are located in the Kurdish region.
All of the seven German-language schools in Iraq are based in the Kurdish region, she said, adding that renowned cultural institutions such as Goethe Institute and German Academic Exchange Service (DDAD) have their representatives in Kurdistan.
The foundation stone for a German-Franco cultural center was laid in late January at the ancient Erbil citadel, in a bid to foster cultural ties with Kurdistan. It is the fourth of its kind in the world.
“These cultural exchanges would develop our nations,” she said.
PKK, foreign interference
With regard to the constant bombardments of the Kurdistan Region’s border areas by Turkey in the fight against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), PM Barzani said that the instability in the border areas is due to the presence of the Kurdish militant groups.
The government has not been able to provide services to over 800 border villages due to the ongoing conflict between Ankara and PKK. PM Barzani hoped the conflict could be resolved through peaceful means.
“We reject the foreign interference in the affairs of Kurdistan Region and Iraq by neighboring countries,” PM Barzani said, adding, the government would not allow the Region to be used to destabilize its neighbors.
Germany and KRG digitalization efforts
Barzani and the German minister discussed cooperation in the digitalization agenda of the KRG.
In response to a question from Kurdistan 24, the Prime Minister said the first company that KRG contracted to begin the digitalization of the driving licenses project was a German company.
"Germany has always been a friend and partner. Together, we helped turn the tide against ISIS," Barzani later wrote in a tweet folowing the meeting.
"Our goals remain the same; a strong, stable KRI; bilateral trade and investment, and support for the Yazidis," he added.
Germany has always been a friend and partner. Together, we helped turn the tide against ISIS.— Masrour Barzani (@masrourbarzani) March 8, 2023
Our goals remain the same; a strong, stable KRI; bilateral trade and investment, and support for the Yazidis. pic.twitter.com/7wDLzmLNry
The German minister arrived on Tuesday and met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammad Shia’ Al-Sudani.
In the presence of the two officials, at least three memorandums of understanding were signed on Tuesday to develop the country’s dilapidated electricity sector.
The minister is set to visit an IDP camp in the Kurdistan Region during her stay, Kurdistan 24 has learned.