The Yezidis are an ancient and widely misunderstood ethnoreligious group living predominantly in northern Iraq. Yezidis typically speak Kurmanji as their native language, and their religious traditions share common roots with Zoroastrianism and elements of Judaism, Christianity, and Islamic Sufism.
Due to religious mischaracterization and harmful ethnic stereotypes, Yezidis have been subjected to widespread discrimination and systematic violence, dating back centuries.
This violence most recently culminated in a genocidal campaign conducted by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). In August 2014, ISIS militants swept through the Sinjar region of northern Iraq in a deliberate attempt to annihilate the Yezidis. ISIS employed brutal tactics including mass executions, rape, forced conscription of child soldiers, and sexual enslavement of young women.
The immediate impact of ISIS’ devastation was that thousands of Yezidis were killed and thousands more were taken captive and sold as sex slaves in ISIS markets. To this day, almost 3,000 Yezidi women and children remain missing and almost 300,000 Yezidis still live in displacement camps in northern Iraq.
The toll of the genocide, subsequent displacement, and continued discrimination has left a profound impact on Yezidi society, with alarming suicide rates and difficulty in obtaining employment or accessing education. Khanke Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp is home to over 14,000 Yezidis displaced from the 2014 ISIS genocide, with 12,000 more living in makeshift outof- camp tents. With 35% of families comprised of female-headed households, Yezidi women in Khanke Camp are in acute need of vocational training and educational support. To meet this need, The Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF) currently provides vocational training such as sewing, knitting, language and numeracy, women’s rights, and ICT classes to Yezidi IDPs through its Women’s Center, located inside the camp.
Since 2017, 1,033 women have graduated from FYF’s Women’s Center programs, which are designed to provide transferrable skills for wherever participants choose to reside. To expand upon this training, FYF is constructing a Bakery and Enterprise Training Center (ETC) to provide Women’s Center graduates with expanded business and livelihoods training opportunities. With the support of a European government donor and the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), this bustling campus will feature a bakery, internet cafe, classroom space, employment center, carpet-making facility, daycare center, and a retail store in which FYF will sell items produced by participants.