The Yazidi people are a member of the religious Kurdish minority group and are located northern Iraq, Syria or some parts of Iran. The Yazidi community is categorized as one of the oldest religious minority group in Iraq (“Ceaseless Persecution Marks the Yazidis’ History”). This minority group has for a long time suffered from deprivation of socio-economic rights, religious rights among violations of human rights. For instance, they have been severally brutally attacked and thousands of them killed. This has exposed both individuals and the whole community to multiple traumas (Tagay et al.). The Islamic State Group performed one of the notable genocides against the Yazidis in the year 2014. In this genocide, there were gross violations of human rights. Thousands of people were murdered and women and girls forced to be sex slaves who were subjected to horrific abuse the Islamic State extremists. This paper discusses the Iraqi persecution of the Yazidis by looking at the political, socio-economic or cultural causes that led to the genocide as well as the effects.
The IS extremists attacked Sinjar which is the ancestral home of the Yazidi community located next to the Syrian border. They declared the areas of Iraq as well as Syria to be Islamic zones. This made thousands of the Yazidis to leave their ancestral land and escape to Mount Sinjar where they were rescued by the Kurdish forces with the assistance from the United States. This genocide was motivated by IS’s urge for political control of Iraq’s northwest region. Consequently, more than 5000 Yazidi men were murdered by the IS and some other 3000 went missing (“Ceaseless Persecution Marks the Yazidis”). There are speculations that they also lost their lives in the war between Syria and Iraq that rolled back the Islamic State control in the regions. The Yazidis also face marginalization ranging from denial of citizenship rights at the local level to lack of enough representation in major decision-making processes. These include taking part in national matters such as the drafting of the Constitution among other matters.
A study showed that the Yazidi people suffer not only from internal but also from external conflicts. The outside forces include the violent attacks from the IS as well as the sexual abuse to the Yazidis which has led to the deterioration of the Yazid-Sunni Arab relationship. Politically, the Iraqi government had an unfavorable stance against the Yazidis and so neglected them. The internal wrangles involve the consideration by the Yazidis that they are a separate group from the Kurds. This, in turn, led to the formation of a gap between the political representatives and the Yazidi community. This made the Yazidis feel not represented due to the political affiliations of the elected leaders. Political representation of the Yazidis in the Iraqi Council of Representatives, as well as the parliament, has been insufficient.
The persecution of the Yazidis is also associated with social effects even on the Yazidi diaspora. In a study conducted on the victims of the genocide, the subjects reported high levels of trauma (Tagay et al.). A large percentage of girls and women who were exposed to trauma and enslavement showed signs of poor mental health. The formerly enslaved women and girls hinted at social rejection from the Yazidi community since they had already “gone outside” Yazidi culture. The genocide led to the separation of family members, as the women and girls were forcefully taken to be sex slaves while most of the men were killed. In some cases, married women were forced to divorce to marry Muslims. The genocide had effects on the economic status of the Yazidis since it disrupted their day to day activities. Most of the Yazidis were denied job opportunities because they were non-Muslims (Taneja). Most of them were forced to flee to the Mountain where they nearly starved due to lack of food and other basic needs.
The Islamic States group has expressed its dissatisfaction with the culture of the Yazidi people. The Muslims consider the Yazidis as devil worshipers since they believe that after God created man, he created angels. One of the angels disobeyed him and was thrown out of heaven to take care of the world, which according to the Muslims in Iraq is the god of the Yazidis (Taneja). The Muslims and Christians believe that the angel who disobeyed God and was kicked out of heaven is the devil. The Yazidis are there subjected to sufferings because of their beliefs. They were forced to abandon their faith and convert to Islam. This happened especially to the women and children because they were as well forced to marry the Muslim men. The IS extremists would abduct the Yazidi ladies and force them to convert to be Muslims. This can be considered to be an attack on the Yazidi faith as it distorts the rituals of the Yazidi culture.
In conclusion, the persecution of the Yazidis by the Islamic State is a clear violation of human rights. Attacking a minority group due to differences in faith is an attack on the community’s faith. The continued persecution has led to numerous deaths, separation of families and threat of extinction of the community’s culture. The continued persecution has led to the deterioration of the economic status of the minority group since the government does not empower them. The continued tensions do not even offer a conducive environment for economic growth. The persecution of the Yazidis is therefore fuelled by political factors leading to both social and economic effects.
“Ceaseless Persecution Marks The Yazidis’ History.” AP NEWS, 2018, https://www.apnews.com/53268dc1b43f48cbb18a29e8e0cad081. Accessed 28 Apr 2019.
Tagay, Sefik et al. The 2014 Yazidi Genocide And Its Effects On Yazidi Diaspora. 2017, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(17)32701-0/fulltext#%20. Accessed 28 Apr 2019.
Taneja, Preti. Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq’s minority communities since 2003. London: Minority Rights Group International, 2007.