The Islamic State isn't making as much news as it once did, as the so-called caliphate continues to decline in size and, in some ways, power. However, it leaves behind a complex legacy of persecution, torture, slavery and, yes, genocide.
There are many victims with stories to tell and it's clear that some journalists and diplomats have not mastered all of the details of this tragedy.
Consider the Washington Post story that ran the other day with this headline: "‘Somebody had to tell these stories’: An Iraqi woman’s ordeal as an ISIS sex slave." It's a horrifying and important story.
The Post international desk did a fine job of presenting the story of Yazidi survivor Nadia Murad. That's important, since the Yazidis remain an obscure religious minority for most American readers.
But there is a problem: The Post report never mentions that the Yazidis were not alone. Christians, Shia Muslims and others suffered the same fate, with mothers, fathers and sons slaughtered and girls sold as sexual slaves. As Secretary of State John Kerry said in 2016:
... (In) my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions -- in what it says, what it believes, and what it does. Daesh is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.
Kerry went on to specifically say that "Daesh captured and enslaved thousands of Yezidi women and girls -- selling them at auction, raping them at will, and destroying the communities in which they had lived for countless generations." He added: "We know that in Mosul, Qaraqosh, and elsewhere, Daesh has executed Christians solely because of their faith ... and that it has also forced Christian women and girls into sexual slavery."
The problem isn't that the Post focused so tightly on the details of Murad's story, since her testimony is what this report is all about. The problem is in the summary paragraphs that failed to inform readers that women and girls in other religious minorities suffered the same faith. Here is the overture:
LONDON -- Islamic State militants have lost the last of their strongholds, but for Yazidi survivor Nadia Murad, a new battle is just beginning.
Three years after escaping militants in northern Iraq, Murad is unveiling a harrowing memoir, “The Last Girl,” about her ordeal as a sex slave.
Murad’s disturbing personal account is part of her effort, represented by human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, to bring Islamic State members to justice for war crimes and genocide against the Yazidi people.
Question: Are human-rights lawyers and other activists seeking just for the Yazidi alone?
I doubt that, since Clooney told the United Nations, this past spring:
ISIS has carried out or inspired attacks in more than 31 countries that have killed over 2,000 people outside Syria and Iraq in the last 3 years alone. Inside Iraq, ISIS has attacked victims from every community including Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims and Christians.
The Post report, however, frames these crimes like this:
When the Islamic State swept into northern Iraq in 2014, thousands of Yazidis were killed and thousands more were kidnapped, including women and girls who were taken as sex slaves. U.N. officials have said the violence committed against the minority sect constituted genocide, and the U.N. Security Council has created a task force to collect evidence of atrocities in Iraq.
Also, like this:
The Islamic State leadership created a self-styled “religious” rationale to justify the sexual abuse of Yazidi women and girls as young as 9.
Some Yazidi women took their own lives.
Murad was gang-raped as punishment for trying to escape.
“What gave me strength was the hundreds, if not thousands, of girls in captivity,” Murad said. “I told myself, we will be able to survive this.”
Why leave Shia Muslims, Christians and members of other religious and ethnic groups out of this picture? Who were the "thousands" of girls who were with Murad in captivity?
Yes, this story is about Murad and it is a story that must be told. The question is whether readers would have better understood the size of this tragedy if the Post international team had framed this story in a larger context -- as done by Murad's own lawyer and, in the speech that defined discussions of this genocide, Sec. John Kerry.