Christof Lehmann (nsnbc) : Khairi Bozani, the head of the Yazidi Affairs Office of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq’s Kurdistan Autonomous Region (KRG) said the number of Yazidi survivors who were kidnapped by the Islamic State has reached up to 3,191. Bozani said around 90,000 Yazidi out of a total of 550,000 in Iraq have immigrated to Europe.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday Bozani said “The recent figures indicate that 6,417 Yazidis are held by IS. … (The) Number of kidnapped women reaches 3,547, while 2,870 Yazidi men are abducted.” Bozani said that the number of survivors reached 3,191, including 1,128 women and 335 men. The number of female children survivors reached 900, while male children reached 828, he added.
The Yazidi (Yezidi) community was targeted by Islamic State militants after ISIS took over large swaps of Iraq in 2014. ISIS militants were victimizing Yazidi, committing massacres and subjecting them to forced conversions, sexual slavery and other reported atrocities. In July, Bozani said around 90,000 Yazidi out of a total of 550,000 in Iraq have immigrated to Europe.
Many Yazidis were persecuted and held in Mosul by Islamic State, which considered them devil-worshippers. A study on the number of Yazidis affected showed that at least 9,900 of Iraq’s Yazidis were killed or kidnapped in just days in an attack by the militants in 2014.
About 3,100 Yazidis were killed – with more than half shot, beheaded or burned alive – while about 6,800 others were kidnapped to become sex slaves or fighters, according to the report published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.
Yezidi (Yazidi) have suffered oppression, repression and persecution not only from ISIS but from both Shia and Sunni as well as Christian communities. Yazidi tradition and religion is mainly passed on orally from generation to generation via family, communities, Sheiks (Shacks), and by practice. Especially Muslims insist that Yazidi are “not people of the book”. Some Muslims and Christians also denounce the Yazidi as “devil worshippers”. Yazidi practice a very rich tradition and religion with many esoteric teachings and practices. The most, if not all “literature” about their religion, rites and ceremonies, their deities and more has been written by non-Yazidi with very limited knowledge.
Yazidi were experiencing “relative freedom from oppression” while Shingal was under the de-facto authority of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Kurdistan Autonomous Region (KAR). The new presence of Iraqi – Shiite, Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi in Shingal and on Mount Shingal since October 2017 provokes fears of renewed repression by religious zealots.
In September 2017 YAZDA released a report entitled “AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE FOR YAZIDIS: A REPORT MARKING THREE YEARS OF AN ONGOING GENOCIDE“. The report stressed that the Central Government of Iraq (CGI) is reliant on Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) a.k.a. Hashd al-Shaabi to achieve its goals and to repel strong Kurdish influences and efforts for territorial control of Sinjar and the region of Kurdistan more broadly.
The YAZDA report also stressed that the CGI has not allocated funds to re-establish life in Sinjar for its former inhabitants, as it has done in other areas of Iraq that have been liberated from IS control. As a result, it is a commonly-held view among the Yazidi population that the CGI has neglected its responsibility for ensuring that the inhabitants of the Sinjar region are able to return to their homes and to aid in the repair and rebuilding of crucial infrastructure, such as roads, schools, medical facilities, etc.
The report also stressed the potential for conflict with Yazidi being caught in the middle of conflicting interests stating:
The PMU is the second most influential force in Sinjar and the principal political presence in southern Sinjar. The PMU controls a swathe of land along the Iraq-Syria border and most of Nineveh Province. The two most prominent groups of the PMU in Sinjar are Kata’ib al-Imam Ali (the Imam Ali Battalions) and theBadar Organization. The PMU is said to be under the authority of Deputy Commander, Mahdi al Muhandis. Its presence has drawn further Turkish interests into Sinjar and created a potentially combustible situation with the PDK, as the latter reportedly perceives PMU as its ‘next generation’ enemy.
However, Yazidi are also aiming to assert themselves within the Hashd al-Shaabi. The report notes among others that:
The PMU in Sinjar comprises mostly Shi’a fighters from different brigades. However, a new Yazidi force is being established and is currently made up of approximately 2,000 Yazidi fighters under three organized battalions – Kocho, Lalish, and Ezidkhan. These are likely to increase in size in the coming months. A training base has been established in southern Sinjar to train Yazidi fighters in the battalions.
Two Yazidi commanders, Murad Shero and Naif Jaso, are the highest-ranking Yazidi leaders within the PMU. Other tribal leaders have also joined. Both the Yazidi Movement for Reform and Progress and the Yazidi Progress Party are supporting the CGI, the presence of the PMU forces and the Iraqi Military in Sinjar, but they oppose all Kurdish politics in Sinjar and all Yazidi areas. Some civil and independent groups as well as NGOs hold a similar position.
The report also noted that the PMU, at least according to its public statements, appears to conform with Yazidi objectives for the population in Sinjar. It has promised Yezidi self-rule for their areas; the formation of a force under Yazidi leadership; and the bringing to justice of all those who participated in the genocide.
However, now that the Central Government of Iraq, with the help of Iranian – backed Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi, has pushed Kurdish Peshmerga out of Shingal again, it remains to be seen whether the Hashd (and by implication Tehran) will honor their promises, if the Central Government in Baghdad will honor its promises, or if Baghdad reverts to is culture and policy of oppression. Finally, there is a risk of Yazidi infighting as different armed Yezidi organizations have different affiliations, some of them being allied with the PKK and YPG, others with other Iraqi Kurdish parties and groups, and yet others again with the Hashd or the central government.
Yazidi communities are, in other words, caught in the middle of regional and geopolitical rivalries involving the Central Government of Iraq, the Shiite government in Iraq, the uncompromisingly anti-Kurdish and increasingly Islamist Sunni Turkey, various – including rivaling – Kurdish groups from Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, an increasingly Iranian-dominated Syria, as well as the UK, other EU member States, the USA and Russia. The potential for a genocide and even an intra-Yazidi conflict is not only present but constitutes an acute risk.
CH/L – nsnbc 10.11..2017