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

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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Israeli defence chief says he's preparing for consequences of West Bank annexations

Updated 01 June 2020

Israeli defence chief says he's preparing for consequences of West Bank annexations

  • Gantz said he ordered the military to step up preparations for Israel's pending annexation of parts of the West Bank
  • Netanyahu has pledged to begin cabinet discussions on July 1 on the plan

JERUSALEM: Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Monday he ordered the military to step up preparations for Israel's pending annexation of parts of the West Bank, a plan that could stoke Palestinian violence.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to begin cabinet discussions on July 1 on extending Israeli sovereignty to Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, occupied territory that Palestinians seek for a state.
Gantz's directive appeared to indicate that the centrist politician had either signed on to the move, or at least believed it would be inevitable, given right-wing support in the Netanyahu-led coalition cabinet.
In public remarks to legislators of his centrist Blue and White party, Gantz noted a recent uptick in anti-Israeli violence in the West Bank and the Palestinians' declaration last month that they were ending security cooperation with Israel over the annexation issue.
He said he had subsequently ordered the chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Aviv Kochavi, to "examine all the ramifications and the required preparations" stemming from moving ahead with the peace plan US President Donald Trump announced in January, a blueprint that could ease annexation.
In a separate written statement, Gantz said "preparations by the Israel Defence Forces should be stepped up ahead of pending diplomatic moves regarding the Palestinians".
The Palestinians have rejected Trump's proposal, under which the vast majority of West Bank settlements built by Israel on land captured in the 1967 Middle East war would be incorporated into "contiguous Israeli territory".
The Palestinians and most countries consider such settlements illegal. Israel disputes this.
The Trump plan also envisages a Palestinian state under near-complete Israeli security control, creating what Palestinians leaders say would be an unviable country.
Sami Abu Zuhri, an official with militant group Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip, another part of Palestinians' hoped-for future state, told Reuters: "The call of the occupation army to get ready for annexation of the West Bank is a call for war, and the occupation will regret this crime, and soon realise they are committing a grave mistake."