The Yazidi Crisis

By: Ashwini Selvakumaran

The Yazidi crisis entails the plight of the Yazidis, an ethnically Kurdish minority who have been continuously displaced in and around the regions of Iraq. Violations of the Yazidi people have occurred since the early sixteenth and seventeenth century. Their belief in Yazidism, associated with Satan in the religions of Islam and Christianity, has elicited anger from their centralized counterparts, contributing to their label as ‘Devil Worshippers.’ (Asher-Schapiro “Who Are the Yazidis, the Ancient, Persecuted Religious Minority Struggling to Survive in Iraq?”). The human rights the Yazidis have been subjected to are devastating, the persecution of their faith being an obvious attack against basic rights to thought, conscience and free will.
Prior to the nineteenth century, the Yazidi community had faced 72 attempts at annihilation (Asher-Schapiro National Geographic News). However, it was the Ottoman Empire who commenced brutal campaigns of religious violence, “In World War One, between 660,000 and 1.5 million Armenians, Christians and Yazidis were massacred at Ottoman instigation” ("From the Ottomans to Isis”). The Ottoman Empire strove to eradicate various faiths in order to expand their authoritarian regime, hindering basic rights to worship and belief (Tezcur "Three Years Ago, the Islamic State Massacred Yazidis in Iraq. Why?”). After World War One, attacks still persisted. Between 1915 and 1918, the now Turkish government invaded Armenia, using force to convert Yazidis into worshiping Sunni Islam. As the conflict of proselytism heightened, Yazidis were forced to uproot from their home near the neighbouring Georgia and Armenia. Denied the basic fundamental right to a secure home, in the mid-1900s, the Yazidis fled to Iraq, seeking refuge (Bush 12). However, the peace they sought was quickly disrupted. In the late 1970s, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein launched brutal Arabization campaigns against the Kurds in the north. Forcing Yazidis to relocate into central Iraq. Hussein urbanized their colony, and led a campaign of both religious and cultural erasure, destroying their rural way of life (Asher-Schapiro “Who Are the Yazidis, the Ancient, Persecuted Religious Minority Struggling to Survive in Iraq?”).   
In 2003, the plight of the Yazidis was finally recognized by the United States, who proceeded to topple Hussein's regime. However, persecution of their faith continued. In April 2007, a bus in Mosul was hijacked, as 23 Yazidi passengers were driven to an eastern Mosul location and murdered. A few months later in August of 2007, hundreds of Yazidis were once again massacred, as garbage trucks packed with explosives set off throughout their stronghold in northern Iraq, an attack from the terrorist group Al-Qaeda (The Economist 33). These attacks once again served to reinforce the burgeoning threat perceived as Yazidism against the relations between the Yazidis and the wider Muslim majority.
At this point in time, the human rights violations the Yazidi community had encountered, had culminated into a chaotic environment wrought with fear. Arguably in the most terrible massacre, ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), militants killed and tortured at least 300,000 members of Iraq's Yazidi minority and kidnapped 7,000 women slaves in 2014 (Chertoff 1050). Denouncing Yazidism, Terror and pressure heightened as Yazidis were tortured, burned, beheaded and abducted further destabilizing the region (Kevin 9). This power ISIS wielded over both Iraq and the Yazidi community grew substantially. Since 2016, 3,000 Yazidi women and children remained in ISIS captivity, as control over Sinjar was disputed by rival armed groups (Chertoff 1050).  Tightening their grip, in 2017, an estimated “6,383 Yazidi women and children were sold, enslaved and transported to ISIL prisons, raped and used as sex slaves” (Chertoff 1050). Youth and women exposed to the harsh and hostile conditions of this environment suffer with the barrier of both physical scars and emotional stress (Dexter 42).

As of August 2017, Iraqi forces were able to drive ISIS militants out. However, Yazidis remain displaced in camps and temporary shelters in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq (Bush 12). Though all persons are entitled to live life according to the dictates of their own conscience, the Yazidis have had this fundamental right, stolen from their grasp.



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