Seven years on, Yazidi survivor buries father slain by Daesh

Seven years on, Yazidi survivor buries father slain by Daesh
Thikran Kamiran Yousif, 22, carries a coffin with the remains of his father from the minority Yazidi sect, who was killed by Daesh militants, after they were exhumed from a mass grave, to bury them in Kojo, Iraq. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 February 2021

Seven years on, Yazidi survivor buries father slain by Daesh

Seven years on, Yazidi survivor buries father slain by Daesh
  • Thikran Kamiran Yousif was 15 when Daesh fighters slaughtered members of his village in northern Iraq
  • He joined mourners for the reburial of his father and 103 other Yazidis

KOJO, Iraq: Thikran Kamiran Yousif was 15 when Daesh fighters surrounded his village in northern Iraq, rounded up residents and slaughtered several hundred of them, including his father, brother, grandfather and aunt.
Nearly seven years later, Yousif has returned to the village of Kojo in Sinjar district for the reburial of his father and 103 other Yazidis whose bodies had been dumped by Daesh in mass graves and have now been identified by DNA samples.
Yousif, now 22 and living in Germany, is still haunted by the massacre of August 2014.

“The most painful moment was when they separated me from my father. That was the last time I saw him,” Yousif told Reuters.
“To be able, after seven years, to bury (these people) where they were killed... means so much to us,” said Yousif, whose other slain relatives have not yet been identified.
The Yazidis are an ancient religious minority who combine Zoroastrian, Christian, Manichean, Jewish and Muslim beliefs.
Daesh, which views the Yazidis as devil worshippers, killed more than 3,000, enslaved 7,000 Yazidi women and girls and displaced most of the 550,000-strong community from its ancestral home in northern Iraq.
UNITAD, the UN team investigating Daesh crimes in Iraq, has discovered more than 80 mass graves in Sinjar and has exhumed 19 of them since March 2019. It has so far identified 104 bodies by DNA samples.
“You can almost see the territory controlled by Daesh by the number of mass graves in the area,” said Karim Khan, head of the United Nations team investigating Daesh crimes in Iraq (UNITAD). Daesh is another name for Daesh.
During the year-and-a-half he spent in the hands of Daesh, Yousif was moved around several times, used as a human shield in Mosul and forced to attend an Daesh-run school, where he was indoctrinated with the group’s teachings on violent jihad.
“They taught us that killing Yazidis is allowed,” he said. “They worked on our minds.”




The funeral for 104 members of Iraq's Yazidi minoirty, who were killed by Daesh, took place on Saturday. (Reuters)


As bombings by the US-led coalition intensified over Daesh-held territory in northern Iraq, Yousif feared he would be killed or forced to fight for Daesh. In early 2016, he fled to Iraqi Kurdistan with his mother and sister.
“In the beginning it was very hard, psychologically. I was confused. I was telling myself that I should not forget what Daesh taught me,” Yousif said.
A year ago, Yousif, his mother and sister found refuge in Germany with the help of Air Bridge Iraq, a non-profit organization that advocates for the treatment and rehabilitation of Yazidi survivors of Daesh captivity outside of Iraq.
Iraqi President Barham Saleh and Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi attended an official funeral ceremony for the 104 identified Yazidi victims on Feb. 4 in Baghdad, ahead of the burials in Kojo, which remains in ruins and uninhabited.
A reparation law for female survivors of Daesh captivity is awaiting ratification by the Iraqi parliament, but it excludes men and boys like Yousif who were also held captive.
And the Yazidis are demanding much more, including the legal recognition of their suffering as genocide.
“There is no legal architecture in place in Iraq to allow judges to conclude that the conduct of Daesh constituted an act of genocide, of crimes against humanity or war crimes,” Khan said, adding that UNITAD’s mandate was to provide evidence to bring the culprits to trial eventually.
About 30% of Sinjar district’s population has returned since the departure of Daesh, but the region is still racked by political instability and lacks basic services.
At his father’s graveside in Kojo, surrounded by other grieving Yazidis, mostly widows, Yousif said his community simply wanted justice.
“We want the world to see that there is a minority in Iraq that suffers,” he said. “We want the world to see us as human beings who have rights just like everyone else.”


Iranian police force deputy dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province

Iranian police force deputy dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province
Updated 16 min 33 sec ago

Iranian police force deputy dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province

Iranian police force deputy dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province

Iranian police force deputy dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province


Vatican envoy to Iraq tested Covid-19 positive: officials

Vatican envoy to Iraq tested Covid-19 positive: officials
Updated 17 min 38 sec ago

Vatican envoy to Iraq tested Covid-19 positive: officials

Vatican envoy to Iraq tested Covid-19 positive: officials

BAGHDAD: The Vatican’s ambassador to Iraq Mitja Leskovar has tested positive for Covid-19, two officials told AFP Sunday, just days before Pope Francis’ historic visit.
“Yes, he tested positive, but it will have no impact on the visit,” an Iraqi official involved in the papal plans said.
An Italian diplomat also confirmed the infection.
As apostolic nuncio to Baghdad, Leskovar had been traveling across the country in recent weeks to prepare for the pope’s ambitious visit, including visits to Mosul in the north, the shrine city of Najaf and the southern site of Ur.
During foreign trips, popes typically stay at the nuncio’s residence, but Iraqi officials have not revealed where Francis will reside during his trip, citing security reasons.
Iraq is experiencing a resurgence of coronavirus infections, which the health ministry has blamed on a new faster-spreading strain that first emerged in the United Kingdom.
The country of 40 million is registering around 4,000 new cases per day, near the peak that it had reached in September, with total infections nearing 700,000 and deaths at nearly 13,400.
Pope Francis, as well as his Vatican staff and the dozens of international reporters traveling with him, have already been vaccinated.
Iraq itself has yet to begin its vaccination campaign.


Israeli defense minister says Iran behind cargo ship explosion

Israeli defense minister says Iran behind cargo ship explosion
Updated 28 February 2021

Israeli defense minister says Iran behind cargo ship explosion

Israeli defense minister says Iran behind cargo ship explosion

DUBAI: Iran was most likely behind an explosion that occurred earlier this week on an Israeli-owned cargo vessel in the Gulf of Oman, the Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said. 
The MV Helios Ray, which was carrying vehicles in the Gulf was struck on Febriuary 25.
“The location of the ship in relative close proximity to Iran raises the belief that Iran was responsible, but it must still be verified," Gantz said in an interview with Israeli state television Kan.

“Right now, at an initial assessment level, given the proximity and the context that is my assessment,” he added.And Gantz said that it was known that Iran was intending to target Israeli assets and citizens.
Top Israeli defense and political leaders will discuss on Sunday their response to the apparent attack, Kan reported citing officials who have said it "crossed a red line."

The explosion did not cause any casualties but left two 1.5-meter-diameter holes in the side of the vessel.

The MV Ray Helios arrived in Dubai's port for repairs Sunday, according to the Associated Press.

 The Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray was seen sitting at dry dock facilities in Dubai by an AP journalist. 

Reuters quoted a statement by a spokesman for Dubai state port operator DP World saying that “an assessment can be made” when the ship arrives. DP World owns and operates the dry docks, where ship repairs and maintenance are carried out.

Iranian authorities have not publicly commented on the ship.


Yemeni minister warns of looming humanitarian crisis in Marib

Yemeni minister warns of looming humanitarian crisis in Marib
Updated 28 February 2021

Yemeni minister warns of looming humanitarian crisis in Marib

Yemeni minister warns of looming humanitarian crisis in Marib

DUBAI: Yemen’s information minister has warned of an imminent humanitarian crisis in the governorate of Marib that “cannot be contained” due to continued fighting by the Iran-backed Houthi militia. 

Minister Muammar al-Eryani told the country’s state news agency Saba that the governorate holds the biggest number of refugee families, who have been displaced due to the ongoing Houthi violence. 

Eryani said Marib had received more than two million refugees who have settled there since the war broke out, saying they make up 60 percent of refugees in the country. Those refugees represent 7.5 percent of the total population in Yemen.  

The minister was citing a report on from the Executive Unit for IDPs Camps Management that was released Friday. 


Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’

Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’
Updated 28 February 2021

Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’

Celebrated Turkish actor risks jail for Erdogan ‘insult’
  • He is in danger of becoming the latest victim in the Turkish leader’s years-long battle with what he dismissively calls “so-called artists.”

ISTANBUL: Mujdat Gezen’s half-century career as an acclaimed Turkish writer and actor has included awards, a stint as a UN goodwill ambassador and a taste of prison after a 1980 putsch.
Now aged 77, the wry-witted comedian and poet with an easy smile and a bad back risks returning to jail on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He is in danger of becoming the latest victim in the Turkish leader’s years-long battle with what he dismissively calls “so-called artists.”
“I am even banned from appearing in crossword puzzles,” Gezen quipped.
Gezen landed in court with fellow comedian Metin Akpinar, 79, over comments the pair made during a television show they starred in on opposition Halk TV in 2018.
In the broadcast, Gezen told Erdogan to “know your place.”
“Look Recep Tayyip Erdogan, you cannot test our patriotism. Know your place,” Gezen said on air.
His parter Akpinar went one step further, saying that “if we don’t become a (democracy)... the leader might end up getting strung up by his legs or poisoned in the cellar.”
These are risky comments to make in a country still reeling from a sweeping crackdown Erdogan unleashed after surviving a failed coup in 2016.
Their trial is coming with Erdogan rattled by a burst of student protests that hint at Turks’ impatience with his commanding rule as prime minister and president since 2003.
Prosecutors want to put the two veteran celebrities behind bars for up to four years and eight months. The verdict is expected on Monday.

Jailed over book
Thousands of Turks, from a former Miss Turkey to school children, have been prosecuted for insulting Erdogan on social media and television.
Bristling at the jokes and comments, Erdogan warned in 2018 that his critics “will pay the price.”
“The next day,” Gezen told AFP in an interview by telephone, “police turned up and I was summoned to give a statement to prosecutors.”
The knock on the door reminded Gezen of how he ended up being dragged before the courts after spending 20 days in jail when a military junta overthrew Turkey’s civilian government at the height of the Cold War in 1980.
Gezen’s book about Nazim Hikmet — perhaps Turkey’s most famous 20th century poet, who happened to be a communist who died in exile in Moscow in 1963 — was taken off the shelves after that coup.
“I was chained up while being taken from prison to court with a gang of 50 criminals, including murderers and smugglers,” he recalled.
He was freed by the court in 1980, and may yet be acquitted on Monday.
Still, Gezen is uncomfortable with the similarities, and with Turkey’s trajectory under Erdogan.
“There is a record number of journalists in jail — we have never seen this in the history of the republic. That’s what upsets me,” he said.

Irritable dictator
An author of more than 50 books and founder of his own art center in Istanbul, Gezen says he has “either criticized or parodied politicians to their faces” for decades without going to jail.
His popularity and resolve earned him a role in 2007 as a goodwill ambassador for the UNICEF children’s relief fund.
But he fears that Turkey’s tradition of outspoken artists — “art is by its nature oppositional,” he remarked — is wilting under Erdogan.
“We now have self-censorship. But what is even more painful to me is that (some artists) prefer to be apolitical,” he said.
“The president has said how he expects artists to behave. But it cannot be the president of a country who decides these things. It’s the artists who must decide.”
To be on the safe side, Gezen’s lawyers now read his books before publication to avoid legal problems.
“It is risky in Turkey,” he observed.
Many of the opposition media outlets that once flourished have been either closed or taken over by government allies, leaving independent voices with even fewer options.
But he remains doggedly optimistic, calling democracy in Turkey something tangible but just out of reach, like the shore for a stranded boat.
“And then someone up on the mast will cry: Land ahoy!“