No end to ordeal of Iraq’s Yazidis a year after ISIS assault

Friday 04/09/2015
Yazidi refugees in the southern Turkish town of Midyat

AMMAN - Yazidis continue to face a bleak future in Iraq, a year after the Islamic State (ISIS) overran and plundered their north­ern Iraqi towns, killed their men, enslaved their women and turned their children into ticking jihadist time bombs.

Their own existence is in peril under ISIS, which considers them infidels. Although Yazidis are mon­otheists who believe in God as crea­tor, their religion is based on am­bivalent supernatural beings ruling Earth. Yazidis pray facing the sun and call themselves “children of the sun”, at variance with Muslim orthodoxy.

The situation of Yazidis is way down the list of Iraqi leaders’ pri­orities. The country is struggling to survive an economic crunch caused by overspending and squandered oil wealth, coupled with ISIS con­trol of territory and sectarian vio­lence — Sunnis v Shias — ripping the nation apart.

Internationally, the United Na­tions labelled ISIS’s war against the Yazidis “genocide” and a US-led air campaign attacked the militants. But little has been done beyond lip service since Yazidi towns, such as the ancestral hub of Sinjar, in northern Iraq were overtaken by ISIS in August 2014.

“When it comes to Yazid­is, it’s only talk because it’s a closed community with little public exposure or influence and has its own religion, culture and tradi­tion, which is alien to many,” said Iraqi political analyst Ahmed Haymen.

He said geopolitical rea­sons contributed to the ab­sence of a solution to the Yazidi quandary.

Topographically, Yazidi towns in northern Kurdish Iraq are encircled or sit atop mountains, with the ter­rain forming an obstacle to land in­vasions.

Kurdish fighters in command of an area overlooking Sinjar say their battles with ISIS are limited to throwing hand grenades.

Politically, inter-Kurdish dis­putes and concern over Iraq’s fragmentation have put the Yazidi problem on the back burner.

Haymen said Sinjar and other Yazidi towns could return to the limelight when the Iraqi Army launches a long-awaited battle to recapture the northern city of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which fell to ISIS in June 2014.

“Until Mosul’s liberation and the other factors are realised, the battle to recapture Sinjar will remain un­known and unpredicted,” Haymen said.

Meanwhile, a defiant princess from a royal Yazidi family from northern Iraq said she would con­tinue campaigning until her peo­ple’s plight improves and ISIS is out of Sinjar.

“Our activities will continue una­bated inside and outside our home­land and in every corner of earth,” Princess Auroba Bayzid Esmail Beg told The Arab Weekly in a tele­phone interview from her adopted home in Germany.

“We neither can go silent, nor can we allow our cause to be for­gotten,” she said.