Iraq: Yazidis targeted again

At least 250 and perhaps up to 500 are dead in four coordinated truck-bomb attacks that devastated Tal al-Azizziyah and Sheikh Khadar, two northern villages outside the town of Qahataniya near the Syrian border in Iraq’s Nineveh province, Aug. 14. Residents and rescue workers continue pulling the dead and wounded from the rubble of hundreds of clay homes that collapsed when the massive bombs exploded. At least 350 are wounded. Rescue workers set up tents along the highway between the cities of Dohuk and Mosul to house the wounded after health ministry officials announced that hospitals in Sinjar, the nearest city, were overwhelmed. The area of devastation in one of the villages measured a half-mile in diameter. Many bodies are so mangled that they cannot be recognized. Ziryan Othman, minister of health for the Kurdistan region, likened the devastation to a natural disaster.

The expected death toll dwarfs Iraq’s previous deadliest series of bombings, which killed 215 people in Baghdad’s Shi’ite enclave of Sadr City on Nov. 23. US Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, told CNN: “This is an act of ethnic cleansing, if you will, almost genocide.”

The attacks come in in the Yazidi heartland, a remote part of Nineveh province that has until now been far from Iraq’s conflict. There may be as many as 350,000 Yazidis in Iraq, but the count is uncertain in part because Yazidis, who have faced centuries of persecution, are secretive about their religion. The “Islamic State in Iraq,” an al-Qaeda faction (presumably the same elsewhere referred to as the “Islamic Army in Iraq“), distributed leaflets in the Qahataniya area a week ago warning Yazidis to flee the country or face attack for being “anti-Islamic.”

The only Yazidi legislator in Iraq’s 275-seat parliament called on the government to do more to protect the country’s small communities. “The ethnic and religious minorities do not have militias while all the powerful parties have strong militias in Iraq,” said Amin Farhan. “The government should protect these minorities by giving them weapons so that they can confront the terrorist groups.”

Idou Baba Sheikh, adviser on Yazidi affairs to Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani, blamed the central government for failing to protect the minority sect. “This crime was committed against the people of the villages because they are Yazidi Kurds,” he said. (McClatchy Newspapers, AP, Aug. 15)

The Yazidis are linguistic Kurds, but consider themselves a separate ethnicity, and have faced persecution from Kurds, Arabs, Persians and Turks alike. Angry Arab News Service notes the “ignorance and misconceptions” about the Yazidis which have fueled hatred of the group and permeate even the Western media:

The name is derived from the Persian ized which signifies NOT worship of Satan, as ignorant enemies would have it, like this Salafi source here, but worship of God. The tragedy of Yazidis in my opinion is that their beliefs are too complex (in comparison to the beliefs of Jews, Muslim, and Christians) to be easily understood. This explains the history of ignorance and misconceptions about them. That they took from different religions different elements only made them hated more: because they are seen as corrupters by all those religions (dualism from Zoroastrism; circumcision, pilgrimage, fasting from Islam; some dietary restrictions from Judaism; famously baptism from Christianity, as well as wine drinking; and transmigration of souls from Sabaeans; visitation of tombs from Sufis, etc). And Yazidism–all stereotypes to the contrary especially with the references to them as Satan worshippers (in Turkish they were referred to as “dog-collars”)–can be said to be monotheistic (although they believe in intermediaries between God and man/woman) just as the trinity is not seen as polytheistic by Christians. The belief system centers on God and Malak Tawus (peacock angel). But God is not active in the universe; that is left to Malak Tawus. He was formerly Satan who was able to rehabilitate himself. So the fallen angel in the familiar monotheistic religions, is no more disgraced. He was able in fact to fill 7 jars in 7000 years with tears from non-stop crying for repentance. What else do they want from him. His tears put off the fires of hell. So the notion that they worship evil or Satan is so wrong simply because Yazidis don’t even believe in evil or in Satan.

Still think it’s not genocide in Iraq?

See our last posts on Iraq, the sectarian cleansing, Kurdistan, and the Yazidis.

  1. Yazidi leader says Iraqi government, Iran involved in blasts
    BBC Monitoring Middle East

    Text of report by Dubai-based Iraqi private Al-Sharqiyah TV on 15 August

    Anwar Mu’awiyah al-Umawi, a prominent Yazidi leader, accused the Iraqi Government and Iran of standing behind the criminal blasts in Sinjar, Ninawa Governorate, which killed and wounded hundreds. Speaking to Al-Sharqiyah, Al-Umawi said that the Yazidis are not the only sect that the government and Iran are targeted, noting that all Iraqi sects are targeted as well.

    [Begin recording of Al-Umawi speaking over telephone from Germany] The attack on the Yazidis does not mean that the Yazidi or any other sect is targeted for itself. Each Iraqi citizen is targeted. This is a known fact. Since the fall of the regime, there have been repeated operations seeking to foment sectarian and religious sedition. Such acts are not directed against the Yazidis only. Nor are they directed against the Sunnis or the Shi’is. We feel sad when any one gets hurt in Al-Najaf, Basra, or Arbil. The Iraqis are one family. Iraq itself is targeted.

    As for the blast, we received direct reports from informed sources in the area that the Iraqi Government played a role. Gangs affiliated with Iran are known to carry out such acts. We should not forget that Iraq is not under US occupation only. Iraq is under both US and Iranian occupation. These operations, again, are meant to harm the Iraqis, rather than a certain sect. After all, those who get hurt are Iraqis. We should view them as Iraqis, not as Yazidis, Sunnis, Shi’is, Kurds, or any other sect.

    Rescue operations are still under way. We will not be able to announce a final casualty toll until tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Many houses fell apart. It is more like an act of annihilation. Some of those wounded or killed are still under the wreckage. We are not receiving any assistance. As you know, the government is not there. We have no one to resort to. Iraq is now run by the traitors, while Iraqi patriotic figures, prominent leaders, and secular trends are abroad. So, who is there to complain to? Shall we complain to the Iranians, who are the enemies of Iraq? Shall we complain to the Americans, who are occupying the country? We only have God to complain to. We beseech Him to bestow mercy upon all Iraq’s martyrs and grant patience to all those honest Iraqis who refuse to give up. That is all I have. [end recording]

    No Iraqi government comment could be obtained on the accusations levelled against it as regards the Sinjar blasts in which hundreds met their end. [Footage of blast scene]

    Source: Al-Sharqiyah TV, Dubai, in Arabic 1600 gmt 15 Aug 07

  2. IFC Statement on Sinjar Bombings
    From the Iraq Freedom Congress, Aug. 16:

    More than 500 people were killed, all of them civilians in the town of Sinjar as a result of the explosion of a number of detonated trucks. The way the crime was implemented points out to Al-Qaeda groups.

    This heinous crime committed against civilians coincides and contradicts at the same time with the statement of the commander of the US forces in Iraq on the beginning of the improvement of the security situation in Iraq

    More than four years of occupation that brought sectarian groups to power; the situation has never gotten any better. In fact the number of killings has increased and the fate of the country is pushed further into unknown

    In addition; the terrorist groups that are supported by the international mafia network and some countries in the region aim through human extermination to defeat the US project to achieve their agenda…

    Iraq Freedom Congress calls upon all Iraqis to unify their ranks and block those terrorist gangs and expel them from the society.

    Security and stability in Iraq will not prevail without ending the occupation, and formation of a secular non-ethnic government. Iraq Freedom Congress calls all Iraqis to raise IFC slogan “No to the occupation … No to the sectarian gangs.”

    See our last post on Iraq’s civil resistance.