On eve of Yezidi holiday, Kurdish leader vows continued support
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On the eve of a Yezidi (Ezidi) holiday that follows three days of fasting, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) promised on Thursday to work for the welfare of the Ezidis and continue attempts to rescue those that were kidnapped when the Islamic State took over territory populated by members of the religious community.
“I warmly congratulate our Ezidi brothers and sisters for the Ezidi fasting Eid, wishing to celebrate this day in a calm and joyful atmosphere,” said Prime Minister Masrour Barzani in a statement.
The holiday, known as Rozhen Eizidi, often occurs on different days of the year as it is calculated on the Ezidi calendar, which is nearly 7,000 years old.
The emergence of the Islamic State and its violent assault on Iraq’s Ezidi-majority city of Sinjar (Shingal) in August 2014 led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of members of the community and the killing of scores more, now recognized by the United Nations as an act of genocide.
Most of them fled to the Kurdistan Region while others resettled in neighboring countries or Western states.
Militants subjected women and girls to sexual slavery, kidnapped children, forced religious conversions, executed scores of men, and abused, sold, and trafficked women across areas they controlled in Iraq and Syria.
Before the 2014 attack, there were roughly 550,000 Ezidis in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. As the militant group took over large swaths of territory in Iraq's Nineveh province, 360,000 Ezidis escaped and found refuge elsewhere, according to the KRG's Ezidi Rescue Office.
The autonomous Kurdish region has often been applauded for its religious tolerance and coexistence, considered a sanctuary for minority groups in Iraq and neighboring countries.
Barzani continued, “THe KRG will continue to serve our Ezidi brothers and sisters. Furthermore, we will carry out the task of working to ensure their rights under the slogan of religious and ethnic coexistence that the Kurdistan Region is privileged to be a part of.”
“We will do everything in our power to rescue kidnapped Ezidis and ensure a safe and honorable return for those who were displaced.”
One week ago, thousands of Ezidis who live at the Sardasht displacement camp on Mount Shingal have called for basic humanitarian aid as winter began taking its toll on residents.
The camp was constructed in 2014 with 2,300 tents. There are currently 14,300 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and victims who survived at the hands of the Islamic that live there.
“I plead with the government, the humanitarian community, and the relative sides to come to our aid,” an elderly man told Kurdistan 24. “We only request water, electricity, basic humanitarian aid, and a doctor.”
Editing by John J. Catherine