The painful story of Yazidis – a minority community of Iraq

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  • Islamic State killed 3,100 Yazidi people in Iraq – mostly men and the elderly – forced 6,800 women and children into sexual slavery, marriage or religious conversion and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing.

  • Yazidis women are very brave and are always found on the forefronts including armed force, politics, education, businesses and jobs etc. The secrets behind the success of Yazidis women are their hard work and full support from the male family members.

By Zahid Jalbani

It was February 2018 when my second interview for the first international assignment in Kurdistan was in process and a panel member was sharing about the program details, implementation areas and the target beneficiaries. “You know a large number of our direct beneficiaries are Yazidi’s women (young women) who remained under the captivity of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). They are coming back either as pregnant or with small babies along with horrible stories shared by the interviewer,” he had told. I started shivering when the person mentioned about Yazidis, because I had in my mind the Yazidis who had war with Hazrat Imam Hussain but at that time I didn’t pose such question for the sake of my clarity.

In the last week of March 2018 when I joined that organization here in Erbil-Kurdistan one of my colleagues from Jordan was sitting in the same room, and I dared and asked from her ‘are these the same Yazidis who fought with Hazrat Imam Hussain’, and in response she said ‘no Zahid these are not the same. You know in your team (my team based in Duhok) you have three Yazidi members.’ After knowing all this, I got clarity that these are not the same Yazidis.

This is true that these Yazidis are different from them and are an endogamous, and mostly Kurmanji-speaking group (which is commonly known as Badini) of contested ethnic origin, and indigenous to Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Today, they mainly live in Iraq, primarily in the Nineveh and Dohuk governorates (provinces).

As for as their religion is concerned, they belong to Yazidism which is a monotheistic faith based on belief in one God, who created the world and entrusted it into the care of a Heptad of seven Holy Beings, often known as Angels or Heft Sirr (the Seven Mysteries). Preeminent among these is Tawûsê Melek (also known as “Melek Taus”), the Peacock Angel.

Writer with his Yazidi colleague Khairi 

I spent few days in my Duhok office where I was warmly greeted by the team members and there got chance to meet with the Yazidi colleagues – two women and a man. Both women were highly qualified with excellent English language along with technical skills too and the man was working as office attendant who became IDP during the ISIS crises in the country. Khairi was his name and I always found him busy with his work. One day, I dared to explore why he every time keeps busy doing something in the office. ‘I am being paid so this is my responsibility to fulfil with honesty, sincerity and dedication,’ was the Khairi’s response. Khairi was living in one of the IDPs camps and at every weekend he used to visit his family in the camp.

According to a rough estimate the total population of Yazidis is in between 0.7 to 1.0 million, which is spread out in 13 different countries of the world. Iraq has the maximum number with 0.5 million which is followed by Germany 0.2 million, Russia 40,000 plus, Belgium 35,000, Armenia 35,000 plus, Georgia 12,000 plus, America, France and Syria with equal number of 10,000 plus while in Sweden 6,000, Turkey 5,000, Australia 2,000 plus and Canada with lowest number of 1000 plus.

In Iraq, Yazidis are mainly residing in two places namely Sheikhan, which is situated in Mosul district of Nineveh Governorate and the others are in Sinjar mountain located at the borderline of the Syria. Sheikh Aadi Ibne Musafir tomb is located in Lalish, Sheikhan where the Yazidis go for the worships according to their religion. It is also witnessed that their worship place is usually located at the top of the mountain (see the picture below).

 According to the statistics Yazidis are in majority in Iraqi-Kurdistan, being majority in numbers but are in minority in Iraq because here Muslims are in majority. The other minorities in Iraq are Christians, Shabaq and Kikai. You cannot imagine Yazidis despite being in minority how they are equally enjoying all the rights including education, employment etc. but this all is because they have proved by their hard work.

As mentioned above here Yazidis have got education from the same public institutions from where all Kurds are getting but they worked hard, progressed and proved accordingly in every field of life. There are few organizations (NGOs) including Al-Yazada and Yazidi Organization for Documentation, specially working for the development of Yazidi community (especially those living in the Sinjar Mountain and became IDPs). Sinjar Mountain is the area where Yazidis are living in majority and was areas captured by ISIS and in the same area Yazidis faced genocide back in 2014. According to an estimate Islamic State killed 3,100 Yazidi people in Iraq – mostly men and the elderly – forced 6,800 women and children into sexual slavery, marriage or religious conversion and sent hundreds of thousands fleeing.

Our organization was providing mental health and psychosocial support services (MHPSS) to the IDPs and my team comprising of Case Managers and Psychologist, every day after visiting the direct beneficiaries, used to come back with gloomy faces. When I tried to explore the reasons behind it, most of them said: “It is very difficult to tell you because every beneficiary has horrible and painful story.” Once I forced them to kindly share with me, as I want to know about them, and only after that one of them started narrating but in the mid of story I stopped him, as I couldn’t bear the shocks. ‘Please stop it’ I had asked and I remember I felt disturbed for many days after listening to that painful story.

One can imagine how the painful situation these people faced during the captivity.

You must have heard about Nadia Murad – the 2018 Nobel Prize winner who was abducted from her village, who after fleeing from the captivity never gave up and started social work for her Yazidi community.

Yazidis women are really very brave and are always found on the forefronts including Peshmerga (armed force), politics, education (they are availing different scholarships for studies in various countries across the globe), businesses and jobs etc. The secrets behind the success of Yazidis women are their hard work and full support from the male family members.

It is true that women only need a moral support they can do miracles as Yazidi women are doing here in Kurdistan-Iraq.

(The writer, hailing from Sindh, is currently working for an International Organization in Iraqi Kurdistan. He can be reached at [email protected])

 

 

 

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