The Yazidis: Suffering in Silence
Yazidism is a religion that dates back to pre-Islamic times and is the pre-Islamic, native religion of the Kurds. It includes elements of ancient Persian religions, Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and early Christianity. The origin of Yazidism can be traced back to northern Iraq, where many Yazidis have continued to reside to this day. However, despite their deep historical roots in Iraq and in various regions throughout the Middle East, the Yazidi people have been persecuted heavily by the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda based on the premise that the faith is non-Islamic.
In 2014, ISIS launched a destructive attack on the town of Sinjar in northern Iraq, home to many Iraqi Yazidis, in an attempt to eradicate the region of non-Islamic beliefs. These attacks along with others of a similar nature were carried out with the intention of “purifying” the region and resulted in the kidnapping, rape, and trafficking of numerous Yazidi women and children. Survivors who have been found and rehabilitated report being sold multiple times, often upwards of five to ten times, in the sex slave market run by the Islamic State. Those who were not enslaved as sex slaves for ISIS fighters were either massacred or subjected to grave mistreatment and torture. Since then, Yazidis have continued to be the silent, relatively unknown victims of ISIS.
Now, years after the initial attack, the Yazidi people continue to suffer at the hands of not only the Islamic State but also foreign forces. In recent reports, after years of suffering, genocide and enslavement, Yazidis are now being forced to convert to Islam by Turkish-backed forces. If they do not comply, they face death. In an interview conducted by The Independent, a 63-year-old Kurdish Yazidi man by the name of Shekh Qamder recalls many people from his village fleeing their homes to avoid forced conversion of faith. According to Qamder, while many people fled, many also refused to leave in fear of losing their homes and their land. Those who refused to leave were reportedly forcibly taken to a mosque, given lessons in Islamic prayer and the Islamic faith, and were made to convert.
In terms of humanitarian aid, the plight of the Yazidis is often overlooked. According to the communications manager at the Yazda Organization Saad Babir, the Yazidi community is lacking basic needs such as water, electricity and education. Over 70 percent of Yazidi homes have been destroyed, as well as religious temples and gathering places. Additionally, it is speculated that thousands of kidnapped Yazidi women and girls are still missing and may still be subjected to sex trade and trafficking. Many Yazidis have reported feeling as though the international efforts to find these victims have slowed despite little progress being made in finding those who were kidnapped. One primary concern in this regard is that once the Islamic State ceases to exist, so will the concern for the rehabilitation of the Yazidi people. While some rehabilitation efforts are being made in northern Iraq to bring displaced Yazidis and Christians back home, the humanitarian crisis at large is still paid little attention.
By Emily Fowler