Synchronicity? Just days after WW4 REPORT cited a rare news report on persecution of the Yazidis (also rendered Yezidis or Ezidis), an obscure and ancient religious sect in eastern Turkey and northern Iraq, the Washington Post actually runs a story on them. In his April 5 story, reporter Karl Vick describes his visit to the eastern Turkish village of Midyat, where a small group of Yazidis are still hanging on despite an exodus from the region over the past generation due to political violence and persecution. He leads with a typical account of their idiosyncratic beliefs—on "Black Wednesday," when he arrived in the village, the Yazidis make picnics and stay outdoors because they believe their homes are haunted by visiting djinn ("genies"). Then he provides a few details on the persecution and exodus: there were 22,632 Yazidis in Turkey by official count in 1985; today there are 432. They mostly left during the brutal war between the government and the Kurdish separatist guerillas of the PKK, which left some 30,000 dead in the late ’80s and ’90s. The Yazidis were apparently singled out for terror by Turkish Hezbollah, an armed Islamist group that was groomed by the Turkish state as a proxy force against the PKK. But the story, "Beliefs Endure as Believers Move On," provides no details on how many Yazidis were killed during the war years, or where they have been fleeing to, or how they have been faring in exile. One local Yazidi man, Mostafa Demir, related how Yazidis still face harassment in the village where they were once a majority:
In modern Midyat, Demir said, their persecution was more apt to appear
as mockery. Demir recalled merchants at the town market drawing a
circle in the dirt around Yazidi customers. Yazidis, whose theology
does not allow them to break a circle, would stand there indefinitely.
This passage will be eerily familiar to readers of GI Gurdjieff’s Meetings With Remarkable Men, which vividly depicts precisely the same torment used against Yazidis in the region in his boyhood well over a century ago. The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?
The Post story also briefly notes that Assyrian Christians are starting to return to the region, following a similar exodus during the war years. Reporter Vick likely travelled to the region with Katherine Zoepf of the NY Times, who filed an optimistic report April 4 noting that Turkish authorities have for the first time this year permitted an open celebration of Akito, the Assyrian New Year festival. It seems a majority of Turkey’s 6,000 Assyrians gathered for the celebration in Midyat, as well as visiting Assyrians from Europe, Iraq and Syria. The report notes:
Iraq, where Akito is celebrated openly, has the world’s largest
population of Assyrians, about a million. Most of Turkey’s Assyrians
were killed or driven away during the Armenian massacres early in the
last century, and the bullet scars on some of Midyat’s almost
medieval-looking sandstone buildings still bear witness to those times.
We hope that Assyrians and Yazidis will continue to be able to boogie in public in Iraq, given the current upsurge of violence and intolerance there. Maybe the Times and the Post will send some reporters to look into the situation they face there as well—if readers express an interest in such reportage.
See also the recent first-hand account by WW4 REPORT correspondent David Bloom in Turkish Kurdistan.