600 residents of the village of Kocho remain missing. Photo: Rudaw
DUHOK, Kurdistan Region – Yezidi activists have successfully lobbied the Iraqi government to convert a school in the village of Kocho near Sinjar – known to Kurds as Shingal – into a museum dedicated to the ISIS genocide.
The Iraqi government gave the proposal the go-ahead and even dedicated a budget. Artists in Duhok and Erbil have been invited to design and build a statue portraying the genocide that befell the Yezidis to display in the school.
In the 2014 attack launched by ISIS on Shingal and its surrounding areas, militants kidnapped more than 6,500 Yezidis, many of them from Kocho.
ISIS gathered 1,202 Kocho residents in the village school. They separated the women and children from the men. The men were taken away to be murdered and the women sold into sexual slavery.
Yezidi community leaders and supporters wrote to the Iraqi government last month requesting permission to create the museum. Now with the government’s approval, preparations are underway.
Dawd Murad Khatari, a researcher of the Yezidis, told Rudaw: “The Iraqi government has given its consent for Kocho school to be turned into a museum and has dedicated some money to build a hall in the school to receive guests visiting the museum. A monument will be built in the school yard too.”
“After the village of Kocho was liberated from ISIS, the village school was viewed as a symbol for the victims of the disaster. A week later, Nadia Murad, who is from Kocho and is currently UN’s good will ambassador, returned to the village and visited the school. Relatives of the victims later returned to the village and visited the school, and put pictures of their victims on the school walls. Recently, some Yezidi personalities submitted the Kocho museum proposal to the Iraqi government which has now given its consent to it.”
Kocho is 22 kilometers from southern Shingal and is the most distant Yezidi village from the center of Shingal. Of the 1,202 people from kidnapped from Kocho, 395 were shot and buried in 22 mass graves. According to figures, 600 people from Kocho remain missing.
Idris Kocho, along with 30 of his close relatives, was kidnapped by ISIS. He told Rudaw: “I will never forget the misery and hardship I suffered in Kocho school. We were gathered in the school. Later, I along with 45 other people were taken to be shot. I was lucky that I was only injured while we were shot at. I then could escape.”
Only Idris survived out of a family of 13.
“It is a good thing if the school in Kocho is turned into a museum because it is a symbol of the disaster that befell the Yazidi Kurds,” he said.
(c) 2018 Rudaw