Yezidi people are being massacred
Yezidi people are all ethnically Kurdish; they are called “Yezidi” because of their religion bearing the same name. The Yezidi religion is a syncretic and heterodox belief system which has its roots in Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity and popular Kurdish culture. It’s generally believed that Yezidi religion was born and developed around 12th-13th centuries A. D. in northern Iraq (or Iraqi Kurdistan) where they still live and have sacred worship places. This heterodox religion had spread widely among Kurdish tribes between 13th-15th centuries. However the expansion of the Safavid and Ottoman Empires toward Yezidi homeland caused most Kurdish tribes to convert to different sects of Islam and Yezidis remained as a small minority. By the second half of the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire aimed to control Yezidi communities directly in order to collect taxes and enroll them into military service. Towards the end of 19th century this centralization policy has been combined with an official Islamist ideology. Yezidi communities resisted to the conversion attempts to Islam and they were massacred several times by Ottoman armies. Later during the 20thcentury a large number of Yezidis fled to European countries and established a diaspora. Until very recently, the remaining population was living under the authority of Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq within relatively safer conditions. Now they are being massacred by the terrorist group of Islamic State (IS) (formerly known as the “Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham –ISIS).
And now we come to the latest developments in Iraqi Kurdistan. After capturing the oil rich region of Mosul, IS changed its target and attacked to Sinjar town and villages, the homeland of Yezidi people. The terrorist band captured Sinjar and surrounding villages, killed hundreds of Yezidis who refused to convert to Islam. The exact number of murdered civilians is unknown. Besides, IS members also abducted many Yezidi young women to sell them as female slaves in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in Mideast.
But the worst is that thousands of Yezidis fled to Sinjar Mountain as they did several times in history to escape massacres. The KRG military forces (“Pesmerghe”) who are supposed to protect the citizens living in Iraqi Kurdish territories fled before the IS militants came without even warning Yezidis of the danger. Of course this event gives a clear idea about the political character of KRG. The leaders of KRG, high ranking members of the two dominant parties which had been always in power since the US occupation (Kurdistan Democratic Party [KDP] and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK]), namely the ruling elites and the armed forces have been so involved in corruption that they became unable to fight to protect their own people.
Since a couple of weeks the Yezidis who fled to mountains are exposed to immediate risk of death on a mass scale. Indeed tens of children and old people have already died because of very high temperature (50 degree celcius) and lack of water and food.
After all these massacres and deaths in high mountains, the United States decided to bomb IS forces to prevent further attacks. Why so late? US didn’t care about the lives of hundreds of thousands Yezidis. It was only when IS began to threaten KRG and came close to KRG’s capital Erbil that US government intervened. US decision-makers then felt the need to protect one of their closest allies in Mideast.
And guess which Kurdish force helped Yezidi people who took shelter in Sinjar Mountain? The armed forces of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) which has very close relationships with the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party), the large Kurdish movement struggling for the civil rights of Kurds in Turkey. And PKK is on the “terrorist organizations list” of both US and European Union (EU). The armed forces of PYD, the party with a strong popular support in Southwestern Kurdistan (Rojava) opened up a humanitarian passage and transported thousands of Yezidis to safe areas. Then PKK guerilla groups came to protect Yezidis against the “Islamic State”.
Yezidi leaders are asking from United Nations (UN) and humanitarian organizations to set up refugee camps in Sexan region of Iraq for all the Yezidis who have now been scattered over a large area. Sexan region in Northern Iraq where there is “Lales”, a pilgrimage site for Yezidis, is a safe place for them.
Not only Yezidis but all the religious minorities in Iraq and Syria are targeted by IS
The IS group, supported by Sunnite tribes and ex-officers of Baath Party, who oppose to the Iraqi central government under the Shiite dominance, aims to control Northern Syria and the whole area from middle to Northern Iraq. This large area which is predominantly Sunnite, includes world’s richest oil reserves (Mosul and Kirkuk in Iraq, A-Omer in Syria), big oil refineries and large dams. IS has already captured Mosul and the biggest dam in Northern Syria, which was built near the Euphrates River. This dam, called “Euphrates”, provides the whole water supply of Aleppo (second largest Syrian city). IS threatens Syrian population by drawing more and more water from this dam, thus limiting the volume of water that the dam can provide. To capture energy and especially water supply regions and thus threaten civilian population in order to force them to succumb to its authority is a widely used tactic by the terrorist group. On the other hand, IS declared that it has taken the hold of the Mosul dam, the largest one in Iraq supplying the water need of Northern Iraq. However there are conflicting news as to whether the dam is being controlled actually by IS or by Kurdish Pesmerghe which has recently organized a counter-attack.
This strategy, pursued by IS both in Iraq and Syria, of taking control of oil reserves and large dams shows that it aims to ensure a permanent existence and even establish a large “Islamic” state. This strategy is backed up by regional powers such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. The future Islamic state will embrace all the Sunnite regions in Iraq and Syria and its population will be consisted only of Sunnite Muslim communities. That’s why IS is carrying out a program of religious purification. All other non-Sunnite minorities, such as Shiite Turkemen, Shabak communities as well as the Christians (Armenians, Assyrians and others) are forced to choose among the following three alternatives: “Either convert to Sunnite Muslim sect, leave or die” in the words of Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser.
Now not only Yezidis, but hundreds of thousands refugees from different religious minorities are heading for Northern Iraq. They are fleeing ethnic cleansing by IS terrorists. Donatella Rovera calls international community for “urgently mounting a concerted humanitarian response” to this disaster unfolding before the eyes of the world. She adds that “the international response to large scale displacement of civilians from areas seized by ISIS has been woefully inadequate to date.”
We are facing a very severe humanitarian crisis. But besides, we are facing a very severe cultural crisis, too. If the necessary steps are not taken, there will be no more Christians, Yezidis, ShiiteTurkemen, Shabak or any other minority in the predominantly Sunnite regions of Iraq and Syria.
 “Humanitarian efforts failing the hundreds of thousands forced to flee ethnic cleansing in northern Iraq”, AI, 12 of August, 2014. Link: http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/iraq-mass-displacement-northern-iraq-2014-08-11
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