A new round of fighting in Iraq has driven around 1,000 Yazidi families from their homes on the Nineveh Plain. Yazidis are a kurmanji-speaking ethno-religious minority indigenous to Kurdistan, a land that spans parts of modern-day Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria.
An ethno-religion is a unique group whose religion is inseparably entwined with heritage and culture. Ethno-religions around the world include Yazidis, Shabak, and Druze. Ones that Americans might be more familiar with would include Judaism and the Amish.
Unfortunately, the Yazidi homeland has been rife with many conflicts, some rooted in political philosophy, and others rooted in religious extremism. Political and religious tensions are running high and has often resulted in violence against marginalized groups in the region.
According to National Geographic, “For their beliefs, [the Yazidis] have been the target of hatred for centuries.” It is not the first time in recent history that the Yazidis have been forced out of their homes. Like their Christian and Shabak neighbors, Yazidis were targeted by ISIS for eradication in 2014. And just like their neighbors, many Yazidis were forced to convert, face execution, or flee. Many of the captured women and girls were forced into sex slavery. At the time, Yazidi leader Vian Dakhil warned: “Our entire religion is being wiped off the face of the earth.”
According to the UN, around 5,000 Yazidi men were murdered and up to 7,000 women and children were kidnapped. Thousands are still missing. Both the UN and the European Parliament have described the events as genocide.
Today, many of the families who faced violence in 2014 are leaving their homes once again. In Sinjar, a wave of refugees has fled new fighting that has erupted in the region between the Iraqi government and a resistance group.
According to the news agency AFP, the number of Yazidi refugees that flee this conflict could actually be as high as 10,000 people.
“It was an unbelievable nightmare,” 34-year-old Murad Shangali told a recent news outlet, the DW. He said that on Monday, “Iraqi security forces attacked the local militia with heavy weapons. We knew we would be the next victims.”
So he and his family packed a few clothes, their IDs, and fled in their car to the Cham Mishko refugee camp.
Despite a cease-fire between the Iraqi military and the Yazidi militia group last Thursday, hopes for a lasting peace are limited.
“We haven’t been able to live happily after we returned home [after ISIS] and now we are scared that the situation is getting as bad as it was, with us being the victims again,” Shangali told the reporter. “What on earth is our mistake? Being an Iraqi Yazidi?”
We are saddened to see violence spill-over into communities that have faced wave after wave of adversity. It is always a great tragedy to see peaceful lives uprooted and lost to conflict. In every war, there are innocents that are caught in the crossfire, regardless of the origin of the conflict.
We wish for peace in Iraq and Kuridstan, and for the refugees of the 2014 insurgency, and now this conflict, to be able to return home and peacefully reestablish their lives. We know the aching of refugees for their homeland far too well. As an organization, we have worked with several minority communities across Iraq to help build brighter futures, including Yazidis.
American FRRME is committed to long term self-sustaining programs and opportunities to help empower refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. Donations to American FRRME go to programs that will aid in the survival of families facing violence across the Middle East.
Please PRAY for the victims of violence in the Nineveh Plain. Pray for the Yazidis, Shabak, and the Christian minority communities of the region, that they are able to heal and rebuild their lives in a brighter and more peaceful future. We dream of a world where everyone may practice their culture and religion in peace, and truly wish to see that happen in Iraq. Pray for the widows, the orphans, and those who are losing their homes and their livelihoods. May the Lord restore peace and have his hand of protection over those fleeing violence.