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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Russia says Syrian government forces has halted fire in Idlib

Updated 20 May 2019
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Russia says Syrian government forces has halted fire in Idlib

  • The last round of violence also displaced some 180,000 in opposition-held areas
DAMASCUS: Syrian government forces have unilaterally ceased fire in the northern Idlib province, the last major opposition stronghold, Russia said on Sunday, while opposition activists reported continued shelling and airstrikes.
Fighting erupted in Idlib late last month, effectively shattering a cease-fire negotiated by Russia and Turkey that had been in place since September. Russia has firmly backed Syria’s Bashar Assad regime in the eight-year civil war, while Turkey has supported the opposition.
In a brief statement on Sunday, the Russian Defense Ministry’s Center for Reconciliation of the Warring Sides in Syria said regime forces had ceased fire as of midnight. It described the move as unilateral, but did not give details.
The pro-government Syrian Central Military Media said regime forces responded to shelling by militants on Sunday on the edge of Idlib. It gave no further details.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitoring group, reported an airstrike on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, saying it inflicted casualties.
The opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense also reported shelling near the town of Jisr Al-Shughour without reporting any casualties.
Syrian government forces intensified their attacks as of April 30 on Idlib. The area is home to some 3 million people, many of whom are internally displaced. The last round of violence also displaced some 180,000 in opposition-held areas.