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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Iraq: Yazidis to accept children of Daesh rape into community

Updated 23 min 57 sec ago
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Iraq: Yazidis to accept children of Daesh rape into community

  • Thousands of women and girls were forced into sexual slavery when the extremists attacked Yazidi communities in northwestern Iraq
  • The Yazidi Supreme Spiritual Council issued a decree welcoming the survivors of slavery, and their children, into the Yazidi community

IRBIL, Iraq: The children of Yazidi women raped by Daesh men will be welcomed into the minority faith, a community leader said Thursday, allowing women taken as slaves by the militant group to return to Iraq from Syria.
Eido Baba Sheikh, son of the Yazidi spiritual leader Baba Sheikh, said the children of the formerly enslaved women will be treated as members of the faith, resolving one of the most difficult questions facing the community since the Daesh group’s 2014 campaign to try to exterminate the minority. Thousands of women and girls were forced into sexual slavery when the extremists attacked Yazidi communities in northwestern Iraq.
But the community shunned the women returning from captivity with children, a reflection of the deeply held Yazidi traditions to view outsiders with suspicion as a response to centuries of persecution.
US-backed Kurdish forces defeated the last fragments of the Daesh group’s self-styled “caliphate” in Syria in March, raising the possibility that thousands of missing Yazidi women and children might be found and reunited with their families.
Still, some 3,000 Yazidis are still missing. Many of the children enslaved by militants in 2014 were separated from their parents and given to Daesh families for rearing. Boys were pressed into the militants’ cub scouts, given military training, and indoctrinated in extremist ideology.
Officials at the Beit Yazidi foundation in Kurdish-administered northeast Syria said Yazidi women with children who could have returned to Iraq were choosing to stay in Syria, instead, in order not to be separated from their children.
Other women gave their young ones up for adoption to find acceptance among their community.
The Yazidi Supreme Spiritual Council issued a decree welcoming the survivors of slavery, and their children, into the Yazidi community, on Wednesday.
Murad Ismael, a founder of the global Yazidi charity Yazda, said it will nevertheless take time for the community in Iraq to accept the mothers and their children, because of the stigma of rape.
“It will take a couple of years for the community to digest this fully,” he said.
He said many women and children will have to seek resettlement in other countries, some to escape the stigma of their situation, and to find psychosocial services to heal after the trauma of slavery.
The community sent two representatives to search for Yazidi women and children in the camps in northeast Syria, where tens of thousands of civilians who survived the Daesh caliphate are waiting to be returned to their places of origin, said Eido Baba Sheikh.
He said it is believed that there could be Yazidi children among foreign or Daesh families in the camps, a result of the sale of Yazidis under the caliphate. Complicating the search will be that many of the children may have never learned to identify as Yazidis, or to speak Kurmanji, the language of the community. Women and older children may have started to identify with their captors, as well, confounding search efforts.
And though the community will recognize the children of Yazidi survivors as Yazidis, they will still face legal difficulties in Iraq, said Eido Baba Sheikh. Under the country’s family laws, a child is registered under the nationality and religion of their father, and it is unclear whether Iraq will allow Yazidi survivors to register their children as Iraqi Yazidis when there are questions about the children’s patrimony.
Also on Thursday, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish regional government, asked for continued US support to allow Iraqis displaced by the war with IS to return to their homes, according to a State Department statement on a call between Barzani and Vice President Mike Pence.
Iraq’s Kurdish region hosts more than 1 million displaced people, including many of the 200,000 Yazidis forced to flee their homes when the Daesh militants attacked their communities in 2014.