In Rudaw

Six years after genocide, Yezidi girl sits on Iraqi PM’s chair

Photos of Gheriba Khero sitting on the Iraqi prime minister’s chair on Tuesday prompted a strong response on social media over the week, with many noting the image’s strong symbolic value.

The six-year-old Yezidi girl from the village of Warde in Shingal visited Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi with a delegation on Tuesday, just a day after the commemoration of six years since the Islamic State (ISIS) group swept through the ethnic minority’s homeland, unleashing terror.

At the request of Kadhimi, the girl sat in the premier’s seat.

Although she does not understand Arabic, Gheriba made sure to voice her needs. In her native language, she made several requests to the prime minister on behalf of Yezidis.

“I went to Baghdad. I raised the voice of Yezidis to the president [sic]. I told him, ‘Sir, I miss my father and I want him to return,’” Gheriba told Rudaw TV.

Many noted the important message, the act of having a young girl from an ethnic minority sit on the seat of the most powerful position in the Iraqi government.

“I hope that she’ll one day sit on that chair in her own right,” tweeted another user.

Others noted that while symbolically strong, Iraq’s Yezidi community remains overlooked by the government six years on from the genocide, languishing in IDP camps, with very little reconstruction of their home towns and villages.

The vast majority of Yezidis continue to live in a protracted state of displacement. An array of armed forces, including the Iraqi army, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi) and PKK-affiliated groups have vied for control of Shingal, and many deem it too unsafe to return home.

When Gheriba’s mother decided to visit Baghdad as part of a delegation, she cried so much her mother decided to take her along.

Gheriba lives with her mother and sister in Duhok’s Khanke camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs). She was born in Tal Afar under the rule of ISIS in 2014 before her parents were separated.

Two months later, ISIS took her father, brother and sister. She survived ISIS alongside her mother and another sister.

Layla Shamo, Gheriba’s mother, spoke to Rudaw about the circumstances of her daughter’s birth.

“It had been two months of ISIS detention when Gheriba was born. I asked my husband, ‘Are you happy you have a new daughter?’ He replied, ‘No, I am not happy, because we don’t know what our future holds.’”

She recalls him saying, “I don’t know what will happen to us in the next hour, let alone next year.”

In the summer of 2014, ISIS extremists swept across swathes of Syria and Iraq. In August that year, they attacked the Yezidi homeland of Shingal in Nineveh province, committing genocide against the ethno-religious minority. Hundreds of thousands of Yezidis fled from the militants, but not everyone escaped. More than 1,200 were killed within days of the attack and 6,417 were captured by the militants, with women and children sold into slavery. Source