Nadia Murad poses for a portrait with international human-rights lawyer Amal Clooney at the United Nations headquarters in March 2017.(Reuters / Lucas Jackson)

Attorney Amal Clooney Files Suit Against French Company on Behalf of over 400 Yazidi Plaintiffs

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By Sabrina Souza and Zoe Sottile

NEW YORK (CNN)—  More than 400 Yazidi-Americans represented by renowned human rights attorney Amal Clooney filed a lawsuit in New York on Thursday, December 14, alleging French conglomerate Lafarge SA conspired to provide material and funds to support ISIS terrorist campaigns against the ethnic minority.

Filed under the Anti-Terrorism Act in the Eastern District of New York, Clooney and former diplomat Lee Wolosky aim “to hold Lafarge accountable for its admitted criminal conspiracy with ISIS and to obtain justice for the Yazidi people,” according to a news release from Amal Clooney Media.

Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking ethnic and religious group with significant populations in Iraq and Syria. A 2021 UN investigation determined ISIS’s systematic persecution of the group, including forced conversion to Islam and the killing and enslavement of thousands of Yazidis, constitutes genocide.

“Lafarge has admitted to a conspiracy that aided ISIS by providing millions of dollars in cash to ISIS, and is alleged to have provided ISIS with cement to construct underground tunnels and bunkers used to shelter ISIS members and hold hostages, including captured Yazidis,” the news release states.

Nadia Murad, a 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner and a Yazidi human rights activist, is the lead plaintiff in the case.

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The 426 other plaintiffs are all American citizens of Yazidi and Iraqi descent whose “families are survivors of a systematic genocide against the Yazidi people that began in Sinjar, Iraq in 2014,” the news release said.

The facts of the case are “really shocking,” Clooney said in a Sunday interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. “Just when the genocide against the Yazidis was beginning in Iraq, that ISIS committed, this company that had already been funding ISIS for a year ramped up its support for ISIS.”

“The factory that Lafarge was operating through in Syria was just 52 miles away from Raqqah, which was the center of the slave trade that the Yazidis became subjected to, the women and young girls,” the attorney said.

Clooney added compensation for the victims will allow them to “rebuild their lives and also to be able to go back” to their homes in Iraq after being displaced.

“This is the first meaningful chance for compensation for these victims of ISIS,” she said.

In August 2014, the United Nations estimated more than 400,000 Yazidis were driven from their homes in Iraq by ISIS, which is designated a terrorist organization by the United States.

Murad told CNN it was important for her to continue to share her story “to remind the world about horrific crimes ISIS committed against Yazidis and in order to prevent this from happening again.”

Her mother, four brothers, and other relatives were killed by ISIS during the genocide, she said.

Murad previously said she and other unmarried women were taken as sex slaves and passed around to various ISIS militants, and that thousands of other women and young girls remain missing to this day.

The complaint alleges Lafarge’s support for the terrorist campaign remained steady and even increased during the peak of ISIS’s brutality in the Middle East, “as ISIS publicized beheadings of U.S. citizens and journalists and began its campaign of executions, rape, and terror against Yazidi civilians,” the news release said.

According to the news release, the large group of plaintiffs includes individuals “who were injured by ISIS, owned land and homes that were destroyed, or had family members who were displaced, injured, kidnapped, or killed by ISIS.” A significant number of the plaintiffs are Yazidi-Americans who relocated to Nebraska, Clooney told CNN.

Lafarge SA, a global building materials manufacturer, previously pleaded guilty in 2022 to conspiring to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations, in a case brought by the United States Department of Justice.

In the case, Lafarge SA admitted it had paid nearly $6 million to ISIS and another terror group, the Al-Nusra Front, “in exchange for permission to operate a cement plant in Syria from 2013 to 2014,” according to the DOJ press release.

As part of the guilty plea, Lafarge agreed to pay approximately $777 million in criminal fines and forfeiture to the United States.

“None of this money, however, has been used to pay compensation to the victims,” the news release stated.

 

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