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UK Recognizes Islamic State Atrocities Against Yazidis as 'Genocide'

FILE - Mourners prepare to bury the remains of Yazidi victims in a cemetery in Sinjar, Iraq, on Feb. 6, 2021. Some 104 Yazidis killed by the Islamic State group in 2014 were given a proper burial in the country's north. The bodies were exhumed from mass graves in 2020.

The British government on Tuesday recognized as genocide those crimes committed against the Yazidi minority by Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq in 2014.

The decision comes days before the ninth anniversary of the crimes that were perpetrated by the terror group also known as ISIS or Daesh.

"The Yazidi population suffered immensely at the hands of Daesh nine years ago, and the repercussions are still felt to this day," Britain's minister of state for the Middle East, Tariq Ahmad, said in a statement. "Justice and accountability are key for those whose lives have been devastated."

Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious minority viewed as infidels by IS extremists.

In August 2014, IS carried out a massive attack on Sinjar, once home to the largest Yazidi community in the world. At least 5,000 Yazidis, mostly men and boys, were killed during the attack on the northern Iraqi city.

IS then kidnapped thousands of Yazidi children and women, who subsequently were used as sex slaves and child soldiers. More than 2,000 of them are still missing.

Yazidi activists welcomed the move by Britain, saying this could help alleviate their suffering years after IS was militarily defeated in Iraq and Syria.

"Thousands died, thousands more were enslaved and so many of us are displaced and traumatized. I hope this step … brings us closer to justice," tweeted Nadia Murad, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was kidnapped by IS in 2014.

Zara Saleh, a London-based Kurdish affairs analyst, said the decision came after years of intensive lobbying by the Yazidi community.

"This means the British government will dedicate more resources to try to hold ISIS criminals accountable for their crimes against Yazidis, Kurds and other ethnic and religious groups in Iraq and Syria," Saleh told VOA.

A United Nations team in 2021 determined that IS atrocities against Yazidis constituted genocide.

In 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution acknowledging that IS was perpetrating genocide against Yazidis and Christians. In 2018, the U.S. Congress passed the Iraq and Syria Genocide and Relief and Accountability Act.