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Iraq's Kurdish Yazidis look to Kurdistan
A Kurdish Yazidi man standing in the doorway of the
small Iraqi minority
Flash Video - Yazidi's pilgrimage to Lalesh in Iraqi
August 03, 2006
LALESH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq',-- Iraq's
embattled Kurdish Yazidi minority, the target of the
worst single terrorist attack since the U.S.-led
liberation, now is looking to the Kurdistan regional
government for protection.
four suicide truck bombs
detonated simultaneously in the small village of
northwest Iraq outside
near the Iraqi border
Kurdish town of Sinjar, killing more than 500
Yazidis, a devastating blow to a community of no
more than 500,000 people.
"While there have always been massacres and attacks,
never has there been something as terrible as Sinjar,"
said Karim Suleiman, the head of the Yazidi cultural
center in the town of Sheikhan, near Mosul.www.ekurd.net
never experienced something like this."
The Yazidis live along the sensitive faultline
separating Kurds from Arabs — a line whose location
will be determined by a vote scheduled for April.
Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution states that
there will be a referendum in the areas bordering
the Kurdistan autonomous region, including the
northern oil city of Kirkuk, so that people can
choose whether to be ruled by the central government
or the Kurds.
The Kurdish Yazidis are concentrated in key areas
for the referendum, including lands coveted by the
Kurds north of Mosul and around Sinjar on the Syrian
border. The Kurds see the referendum as a chance to
right Saddam Hussein's historic wrongs of forced
population transfer and Arabization. The Arabs see
it as a Kurdish land grab.
Over the centuries the Yazidis, who primarily speak
Kurdish, have identified themselves as Arabs or
Kurds, depending who held the upper hand. The
community now has firmly thrown its lot in with the
Kurdish regional government.
"We hope that the land now lived on by the Yazidis
will join the Kurdish area," the community's leader,
Amir Tahseen Beg, told the Associated Press from his
residence in Sheikhan. "This will depend on the
referendum, but our areas must return to the
The Yazidis have always existed on the fringes of
the region's history — the occasional victim of
pogroms when local leaders have accused them of
The community is widely
viewed with suspicion and Yazidis have complained
about discrimination, and even persecution, from
both their Arab and Kurdish neighbors.
The Yazidis say that they are ethnic Kurds
worshipping the original religion of their people
before the advent of Islam, venerating in particular
Malak Taus, the chief of the angels — known in other
religions as Lucifer — who takes the form of a blue
With the creation of the Kurdish autonomous region
in 1991 under the protection of U.S. forces, the
Yazidi community was divided, with some 90 percent
of its people remaining under Iraqi government
control — a government they say oppressed them,
prevented them from practicing their religion and
even declared them Arabs in 1977.
"Where the Kurds are, the Yazidis are and where the
Yazidis are, the Kurds are — we are one people and
one nation," said Baba Sheikh Khurto Hajji Ismail,
the community's religious leader. "The Yazids are
from the old religion of the Kurds."
Yazidi religious practices have been described as a
blend of Eastern religions with hints of the ancient
pre-Christian Persian Zoroastrian and Mithraic
practices, as well as elements of Christianity,
Judaism and Islam.
All the monotheistic prophets are recognized, but
Abraham and Noah are especially venerated.
The Yazidis' most important occasion is the Eid al-Jamma,
or pilgrimage holiday, when the community scattered
across Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Germany
gathers in the temple city of Lalesh, nestled in a
picturesque valley just north of Mosul.
In October 2006, the week-long festival was held for
the first time in years due to improved security.
Thousands of Yazidis, dressed in Kurdish, Arab,
Turkish and European dress, walked barefoot among
the conical temples of the sacred village, paid
their respects and greeted rarely seen distant
The festival was canceled this year after the
bombings in Sinjar.
"There are not many of us, so things like this
really affect us," said Luqman Suleiman Mahmoud who
was recently visiting the empty temple valley. "My
people are like links in a chain, so any small thing
affects us all," he said, adding that there have
been few weddings or celebrations since the attack.
In the immediate aftermath of the bombings,
Kurdistan regional president
Massoud Barzani dispatched
a force of
400 Kurdish militia
(Kurdistan national forces),www.ekurd.net
known as peshmerga, to
Sinjar to protect the Yazidis — a provocative move
considering his official jurisdiction does not
extend to those lands.
"We did not get the approval of the central
government because these forces have been sent for a
short time and for humanitarian reasons," said Jabar
Yawer, spokesman for the peshmerga.
The move was appreciated by Yazidi leader Tahseen
Beg, and has reinforced the sense that the
community's future must lie with the Kurdish
autonomous region. He said his people just have one
request from the government.
"We asking that the Yazidis be recognized," in the
regional constitution being drawn up, which only has
a clause granting equal rights to the different
ethnicities in the region, including Kurds, Arabs,
Turcoman, and Christian Assyrians, he said.
"We are not just asking for respect for different
ethnicities, but we would like a clause recognizing
different religions within the ethnicity of the