By Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
IRAQ (ANS – July 29, 2017) — In an historic step for the beleaguered Yezidi Peoples in northwestern Iraq, the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Yezidi Nation, led by Baba Sheikh Khurto Hajji Ismail, has proclaimed the establishment of The Provisional Government of the Autonomous Nation of Ezidikhan.
In a proclamation published on July 25, Baba Sheikh Khurto Hajji Ismail calls for Yazidis who were displaced by the ISIS genocide to return to their homelands.
Islamic State (ISIS) captured Mosul in June of 2014 and subsequently engaged in a systematic genocide of Yazidis and Assyrians, killing thousands of Yazidis and hundreds of Assyrians, driving nearly 200,000 Assyrians away from their homes in the Nineveh Plains, displacing tens of thousands of Yazidis and capturing and selling Yazidi women as sex slaves.
The provisional government arrives just three years after the Yezidi people faced a horrifying genocidal assault that brought them to the edge of extinction, according to an article by John Ahni Schertow, writing for https://intercontinentalcry.org.
In his article, Schertow says that in August 2014, the Islamic State (ISIS) committed “unimaginable horrors” against the Yezidi nation, according to a UN-mandated Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI).
After invading Yezidi towns and villages around Sinjar, near the Syrian border in northwestern Iraq, ISIS fighters killed 5,000 Yezidi and enslaved more than 4,000 women and children. Tens of thousands more were displaced as a result of the siege.
In a statement that was presented at the 16th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on Apr. 28, 2017, the Yezidi Nation said that: “Thousands more women and girls remain in captivity under conditions of sexual slavery, as the well-known case of Nadia Murad demonstrates. Nadia continues to seek justice against ISIS in the international court system.”
The commission said that ISIS still holds approximately 3,200 women and children.
In order to move the Yezidi toward a secure and prosperous future, the Supreme Spiritual Council acknowledged the need for “resolute action,” stating in its proclamation: “Yezidi survivors of the Daesh [another name for IS – Ed.] holocaust across the Eastern Mediterranean region, as well as Yezidis from other parts of the world, will never cease to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland. This right is the natural right of the Yezidi people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations.”
To that end, the Yezidi leaders announced their intention to hold free and open elections “for all adult Yezidis, with women, men and third sex being eligible to vote and seek office… as equals.”
They also say that the Autonomous Nation of Ezidikhan will, “Actively promote Yezidi immigration and the return of the Yezidi Diaspora; Implement a charter and Constitution protecting individual and community freedom, justice and peace as envisaged in the traditions of Ezidikhan; Guarantee to the citizens of Ezidikhan freedom of press, religion, conscience, language, education, legal rights and culture; Safeguard any nation that wishes to come under the protection of Ezidikhan in a manner consistent with an agreed bi-lateral treaty; and Be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and international law.”
The Supreme Spiritual Council goes on to extend a hand of friendship “to all bordering nations and states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Yezidi Nation. The Autonomous Nation of Ezidikhan is prepared to do its share in a common effort to achieve freedom and stability for the advancement of the entire Middle East.”
The proclamation was signed in the Sacred Yezidi village of Lalish, “on the third day of Gelawej, year 6767 by the Yezidi calendar”– that’s July 25, 2017, according to the Gregorian calendar.
In the Preamble to the “Proclamation: Establishment of the Provisional Government of Ezidikhan” by the Supreme Spiritual Council of Ezidikhan at www.ezidikhan.net, “The Land of Ezidikhan is the homeland of the Yezidi people. Here our spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. The catastrophe that recently befell the Yezidi people – the massacre and abduction of thousands of Yezidis – calls for resolute action for our security and prosperity. Accordingly we take this action to proclaim the inherent power of self-governance in Ezidikhan the Yezidi Nation.
“Yezidi survivors of the Daesh holocaust across the Eastern Mediterranean region, as well as Yezidis from other parts of the world, will never cease to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland. This right is the natural right of the Yezidi people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations.”
It adds: “We extend our hand to all bordering nations and states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Yezidi Nation. The Autonomous Nation of Ezidikhan is prepared to do its share in a common effort to achieve freedom and stability for the advancement of the entire Middle East and, in Article VI “appeal(s) to the Yezidi people throughout the world to rally round the Yezidis of Ezidikhan in the tasks of immigration and economic and prosperity by and between nations and peoples throughout the Eastern Mediterranean region.”
Continuing, it says: “We appeal to the Yezidi people throughout the world to join the Yezidis of Ezidikhan in the tasks of restoring our nation and to stand by all Yezidis in the great struggle for the realization of a renewed future rooted in the age-old dream of Ezidikhan.”
It concludes: “Placing our trust in the Almighty, we affix our signatures to this proclamation at this session of the provisional National Council, on the soil of the Homeland, in the Sacred Village of Lalish, on this third day of Gelawej of the year 6767 by the Yezidi calendar (the twenty fifth of July of the year 2017 by the Gregorian calendar).”
It is signed by Baba Sheikh Kurto Hajji Ismail, Hajoyan Khdir, Baba Salem Daound, Baba Sheikh Hadji Saado, and Hadji Aziz Anmar.
In two posts online, responding to the Declaration and titled: “Thoughts on “Proclamation: Establishment of the Provisional Government of Ezidikhan,” ‘Friend of the Ezidi’ says: “May the Almighty see you prospered again and again! May you be protected from all harm and from the plans of those who seek your destruction! May the Almighty place you above the reach of those who seek your subservience! May the Almighty utterly confuse your enemies and give you peace!”
Joy Dolci says: “i am so glad to see you establish this and surround you all with Divine Light and Love in your success.”
Sebastian Maisel, Assistant Professor for Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies at Grand Valley State University, writing on the website http://www.mei.edu in a statement originally posted in August 2008, recalled: “On August 14, 2007, in the largest single terror attack during the war in Iraq, over 350 Yezidis were killed and two entire villages completely destroyed, leaving over 1,000 families homeless. The two villages, Qahtaniya and Jazeera are located in the Sinjar Mountains, an area in northwestern Iraq that is hotly contested by Sunni Arab insurgents, Kurdish peshmergas, US-led coalition forces, and several minority groups.”
Maisel writes that the Sinjar region, which is home to the majority of the approximately 500,000 Iraqi Yezidis, belongs to the Niniveh Governorate and therefore not to one of the three Kurdish provinces. The Yezidis, who are Kurds, speak the Kurmanji dialect. Unlike the predominantly Muslim Kurds, however, Yezidis follow a different religious tradition, one that dates to pre-Islamic times.
Maisel said: “Since large groups of Iraqi Christians have fled the country, the Yezidis have now become the largest non-Muslim minority in Iraq. Information about their existence and current situation has come to the attention of the international community by reports from embedded journalists, who often have given the Yezidis of Iraq a voice for their concerns for the first time. Other information has been gathered from the few scholars and researchers who have conducted fieldwork among the Iraqi Yezidis.”
He writes: “Leaving aside issues related to the US-led invasion and the overall change in Iraq, several important questions are raised in this article, focusing on this specific group as an example of unilateral transition under the new system. What happened to the Yezidis after the fall of Saddam’s regime? Do they have a future in the wider geographical area? Can this ancient faith protect itself, or can it be protected in the wake of an escalating conflict over resources, territory, and religious hegemony? How do Yezidis adapt to political, social, and religious challenges?”
Yezidis follow a different religious tradition, one that dates to pre-Islamic times, Maisel said.
He states the Yezidis are a very small ethnic-religious minority, who, due to the drawing of political borders in the aftermath of World War One, were spread over several Middle Eastern countries. However, although most Yezidis consider themselves ethnic Kurds, some communities, particularly in Armenia and the Sinjar Mountains, want to be regarded as Yezidis — as a distinct ethnicity with their own Yezidi language.
The largest group of Yezidis (approximately 400,000) lives in northern Iraq, which is also home to their main sanctuaries and places of pilgrimage. Other communities are found in Armenia (50,000) and Georgia (10,000); Yezidis have recently migrated in large numbers to Germany (40,000) in order to claim political asylum. Relatively small groups still survive in Syria, while the Yezidis of Turkey have almost completely left their traditional living areas and moved to Germany.
“In Iraq until 2003, most Yezidis lived in areas that were controlled by the Iraqi government in Baghdad, while only 10% enjoyed relative freedom in the Kurdish-controlled province of Dahuk,” he said. However, all Yezidi areas were subject to heavy Arabization policies carried out by the Iraqi government in the 1970s and 1980s, which forced the local Kurdish population to leave their villages and to live in several mujammas, collective towns in the plains far away from their fields and villages in the mountains.
“Their villages were then either destroyed or given to loyal Sunni Arab tribes. Until recently, the return to their homeland has not been facilitated; most of the Yezidis have continued living in mujammas like Qahtaniya or Jazeera.”
“While the majority of Yezidis still inhabit the villages or collective towns, some smaller communities are also found in the larger cities of the north, such as Dahuk or Mosul. There, they lack the cohesion of a strong community that is necessary for survival in the current ethno-religious conflict,” he said.
In analysis of the political situation for Yezidis, Maisel says the forced Arabization policy reached its peak in 1987-88 during the Anfal Campaign. Most Yezidis were then relocated to the mujammas and became completely dependent on supplies and basic services provided (or often not provided) by the central government. Almost the entire community lived in a state of poverty and illiteracy. Unemployment is still so common that no one bothers to find accurate numbers. Many Yezidis tried, but only a few succeeded, in fleeing the area and seeking asylum in foreign countries, predominantly Germany.
He says: “From the beginning of the war in 2003, the Kurds in general and the Yezidis in particular welcomed and supported the coalition forces, hoping that the fall of Saddam’s regime would bring security, prosperity, and recognition. Also, since the beginning of the sectarian warfare in the middle of 2004, the political and security situation of the Yezidis has deteriorated steadily, and the number of attacks against them has increased dramatically, especially in the Nineveh Province. Those events were hardly mentioned in the local or international press.”
Maisel states: “The interest of the media is focused more on the Sunni-Shi‘ite conflict than on the relatively calm situation in the Kurdish territories. Unlike other involved groups, such as the Christian exile community or neighboring Sunni countries, the Yezidis have no institutionalized lobby that could bring the current disaster to the attention of the wider world. The educated elite is often threatened with attacks or intimidated by kidnappings of family members.”
In Maisel’s Conclusion, he states the common goal of the new Iraqi government — that all ethnic and religious groups of the country have their representation within the political system — has failed.
“The protection of minority groups, however, can be viewed as an indicator of the development of a democratic society in Iraq. Religious extremism combined with political and economic ambitions is increasingly directed against religious minorities, particularly against the Yezidis. Unlike Christians, they are generally not recognized as a protected minority, which has led to massive persecution in areas without strong and stable authorities.”
Due to the unilateral renaissance of traditional Islamic values for the majority of the Iraqi population, the ongoing security problems, the growing radicalization of conservative Muslims, as well as the continuing violent fighting over political hegemony in Iraq, Yezidis face infringements, threats, attacks, and other negative effects on their daily lives. Appeals by local politicians, religious leaders, and international observers have called for practical measures to protect Yezidis.
“To promote or simply practice the Yezidi religion can have fatal consequences. While in areas with larger Yezidi communities a fragile coexistence endures, in areas with smaller communities Yezidis are forced to hide their religion, flee the region, or surrender to the attacks of radical Muslim terrorists and their supporters.
“Without international intervention, the survival of one of the oldest religious communities in the Middle East is very uncertain.”
Photo captions: 1) Baba Sheikh Khurto Hajji Ismail, Head of the Supreme Spiritual Council of Ezidikhan. (AINA photo). 2) Yazidi woman fleeing IS with her children. 3) Map of the of the Autonomous Nation of Ezidikhan. 4) Michael Ireland.
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister, and an award-winning local cable-TV program host/producer who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. You may follow Michael on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Michael-Ireland-Media-Missionary-234951783610/ and on Twitter at @Michael_ASSIST. Please consider helping Michael cover his expenses in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, by logging-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael
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