IRAQ: Dashed Yezidi dreams

30 September 2005

IRAQ: Dashed Yezidi dreams

On 15 September 2005, members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq
met with members of the Yezidi Academic & Cultural Association and the
Yezidi Political Movement. The representatives were seeking assistance in
their advocacy for the rights of the Yezidi minority.

According to the people at the meeting, the Yezidi community is indigenous
to Iraq with religious practice dating back to the Sumerian period in
Mesopotamia, circa 2000 BCE. There were a million Yezidis in 1700, but
today there are about 650,000 Yezidis, 90% of whom live in
Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq near the city of Mosul. Under the
repression of the Saddam Hussein regime, Yezidi towns and villages did not
receive basic services such as water, electricity, healthcare and
education, and as a result suffered a severe state of poverty and

The Yezidis placed high hopes in the creation of the new Iraq, and fought
successfully for their inclusion among the cultural and religious groups
protected by Section 1, article #2 of the new constitution. They dreamed of
sharing in the freedom and democracy of the new Iraq.

The harsh reality experienced by the Yezidis today has dashed that dream.
There have been no positive changes in their economic, health and
educational well-being. Politically, they find themselves marginalized by
Kurdish political authorities currently in control of northern Iraq, and
harassed by both of the two most powerful Kurdish political parties. They
accuse government officials of diverting
funds slated for a Yezidi town of 20,000 to a smaller Kurdish village of
1,000. In the elections of 2005, some Yezidi villages received no ballots,
while villages with ballots lacked the promised buses for
voter transportation. Some polls opened from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. only
and some ballot boxes were stuffed before voting even started.

More ominous is the violence experienced by the budding Yezidi political
parties--threats, accusations of terrorism, kidnapping, rape, and even an
assassination in spring 2005. Accepting political
leadership as a Yezidi endangers one's life.

The Yezidis are demanding a stop to discrimination and the negative
political tactics of the Kurdish government aimed at assimilation of the
Yezidis rather than their recognition of them as a distinct people, neither
Arabs or Kurds. And they demand the right to have their own
representatives in the new Iraqi Assembly and Iraqi Parliament.

It appears that despite the protections written into the constitution, the
new Iraq is failing to deliver democracy, and the Yezidi communities of
Northern Iraq are facing continued marginalization, increasing invisibility
and forced assimilation into Kurdish society.