Yazidis bid last farewell to spiritual leader in Iraq

Iraqi Yazidi women attend the funeral of the Mir Takhsin-Beg (Tahseen Said Ali), the hereditary leader of the Yazidi community in the world, during his funeral in the town of Sheikhan, 50km northeast of Mosul, on February 4, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 05 February 2019
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Yazidis bid last farewell to spiritual leader in Iraq

  • Thousands of mourners, both men and women, solemnly lined the side of the road to the mountaintop temple in the town Lalish watching his wooden coffin go by

SHEIKHAN: Thousands of Yazidis who survived atrocities at the hands of the Daesh group bid a last farewell in Iraq on Monday to their spiritual leader who died last month.
The longtime head of the world’s Yazidi minority, Prince Tahseen Said Ali, died in the KRH Siloah hospital in Hanover, Germany at the age of 85 at the end of January.
Incense floated in the air as thousands of mourners, both men and women, solemnly lined the side of the road to the mountaintop temple in the holy town of Lalish watching his wooden coffin go by.
Musicians dressed in white played flutes and drums as they accompanied the funeral cortege on Monday, the eve of the prince’s burial in the northern Iraqi town.
“It’s a day of great sadness,” said one of the mourners, Abdel Khamuma.
His death had left “an immense void,” he told AFP.
The Yazidi people were brutally targeted by the Daesh extremists who swept across northern Iraq in 2014 and seized their bastion of Sinjar near the border with Syria.
Daesh fighters slaughtered thousands of Yazidi men and boys, then abducted women and girls to be abused as “sex slaves.”
According to authorities, more than 6,400 Yazidis were abducted and only half of them were able to flee or be rescued.
The fate of the others remains unknown.
The brutal assault pushed around 360,000 of the Kurdish-speaking Yazidis to flee to other parts of Iraq, including the Kurdish region, in addition to another 100,000 who left the country altogether.
The United Nations has said Daesh’s actions could amount to genocide, and is investigating the extremist group’s atrocities across Iraq.
The Yazidi faith emerged in Iran more than 4,000 years ago and is rooted in Zoroastrianism, over time integrating elements of Islam and Christianity.
With no holy book and organized into castes, Yazidis pray to God facing the sun and worship his seven angels — first and foremost Melek Taus, or Peacock Angel.
Of the world’s 1.5 million Yazidis, around 550,000 were living in the remote corners of northern Iraq, where their holiest site Lalish lies and where Prince Tahseen was born, before the Daesh onslaught.
Prince Tahseen, whose body arrived in Iraq from Germany on Monday, will be buried in Lalish on Tuesday.
The Yazidi cause has found a powerful symbol in Nadia Murad, a former IS abductee from Sinjar who escaped and went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her activism against sexual violence.
Prince Tahseen was born in 1933 in Iraq’s northwest Sheikhan district and was appointed head of the Yazidis at age 11 after the death of his father, who was the previous emir.
He later moved to Germany, home of the biggest expatriate Yazidi community.
Iraqi Yazidi parliamentarian Vian Dakhil has told AFP that before dying, Prince Tahseen had appointed his son, Hazem, to succeed him.
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Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process in Sudan. (Reuters)
Updated 24 July 2019
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Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

CHICAGO: US Special Envoy for Sudan Donald E. Booth on Tuesday said that leaders of the military government and the opposition in the African nation are moving toward a reconciliation, but added “there is a lot” that still needs to be done.
Booth, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in June, is charged with leading the US efforts to support a political solution to the current crisis that reflects the will of the Sudanese people.
Both sides in Sudan agreed a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new “Sovereign Council,” before constitutional changes can be made. Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.
“That political declaration really addresses the structure of a transitional government and not the entire structure,” Booth said. “(The July 17 agreement) has put off the question of the legislative council. It is a document that is the beginning of a process. We welcome the agreement on that but there are still a lot of negotiations to be conducted on what the Sudanese call their constitutional declaration.”
The envoy said he expects the Sovereign Council “will have to address what the functions of the different parts of the transitional government will be,” such as the roles and powers of “the sovereign council, the prime minister, the cabinet and, ultimately, the legislative cabinet. Who will lead that transitional government is still undecided.”
The crisis in Sudan came to a head in December 2018 when President Omar Al-Bashir imposed emergency austerity measures that prompted widespread public protests.
He was overthrown by the Sudanese military in April 2018 as a result of the unrest but the protests continued. Demonstrations in Khartoum turned violent on June 3 when 150 civilians were killed, sparking nationwide protests in which nearly a million people took part.
Booth said these protests had changed the dynamics in Sudan, forcing the military to negotiate with the people.
“The 3rd of June was a signal of the limits of people power,” he said. “But then there was the 30th of June, in which close to a million people took to the streets outside of Sudan and I think that demonstrated the limits of the military power over the people.”
Some have asked whether individuals might face prosecution for past human-rights violations, including Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Gen. Hemeti, who was appointed head of the ruling transitional military council in April after Al-Bashir was removed from power. Booth said this would be a decision for the new transitional government.
“One has to recognize that General Hemeti is a powerful figure currently in Sudan,” he said. “He has considerable forces loyal to him. He has significant economic assets as well. So, he has been a prominent member of this transitional military council. But he has been one of the chief negotiators for the forces of Freedom and Change.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Both sides in Sudan agreed on a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new ‘Sovereign Council,’ before constitutional changes can be made.

• Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.

• We will have to wait and see what type of agreement Sudanese will come up with, says US envoy.

“We will have to wait and see what type of agreement they will come up with…we don’t want to prejudge where the Sudanese will come out on that. It is their country and their decision on how they move forward. Our goal is to support the desire for a truly civilian-led transition.”
Booth noted that although sanctions on Sudan have been lifted, the designation of the nation as a state sponsor of terrorism remains in force. He also said he expects the pressures and restrictions on journalists covering Sudan’s transition to ease as progress continues toward redefining Sudan’s government.
“As you can see, there is still a lot that the Sudanese need to do,” said Booth. “But we fully support the desire of the Sudanese people to have a civilian-led transitional government that will tackle the issues of constitutional revision and organizing elections, free and fair democratic elections, at the end of the transitional period.”
He added that the US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process, including expanded religious freedoms, an end to the recruitment of children for military service, and improving Sudan’s economy.
“I think it is important we give the Sudanese space to negotiate with each other, and to continue to express our support to get to the civilian-led transition government that will be broadly supported by the Sudanese people,” said Booth.