On eve of Yezidi New Year, Kurdistan officials give 'heartfelt congratulations'
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On the night before the Yezidi (Ezidi) New Year, senior officials from the Kurdistan Region offered congratulations and good wishes to members of the religious minority.
Ezidis gather yearly for the occasion, known as Red Wednesday, at their holiest site, the temple of Lalish in Duhok province.
"On the occasion of the Eid (holiday), we extend our heartfelt congratulations to all Ezidi sisters and brothers in Kurdistan and the world, and we wish them happiness and bliss," read a statement by Masoud Barzani leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
"The Ezidi sisters and brothers, as an integral part of our people, suffered a lot of pain and tragedy, the same as the deadly Anfal campaign and the victims of the chemical attack. Our enemies targeted them with their hatred, doing everything they could to cut the Ezidis’ ties to our people," he continued, "but the strong national will of the Ezidis foiled these attempts.”
The emergence of the Islamic State and its violent 2014 assault on the Ezidi-majority city of Sinjar (Shingal) led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Ezidis. Most of them fled to the Kurdistan Region, while others resettled in neighboring countries in the region or Western states.
Others were not as lucky and remained stranded in the war zone, where they experienced atrocities and mass executions at the hands of the extremist group for years. 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, actions now widely recognized as genocide.
Earlier on Tuesday, two fighters from an Ezidi militia group were killed and another five injured when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated as the unit was conducting a sweep for remnants of the Islamic State in the countryside of Shingal.
Over the past few years, many have called for the disputed district of Shingal, now part of Nineveh province, to be designated its own province, in large part to grant the beleaguered Ezidi community a degree of local self-determination.
Only three days after the murder of a 15-year-old Ezidi boy living in Germany, another member of their group was killed on Friday in a knife attack in a different German city. Both had emigrated to the European nation after escaping from the Islamic State's attacks on their home towns.
Prime Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masrour Barzani, said in his own statement, whished them "a happy and joyful year, and may it bring the end to their pain and sorrows, as they have suffered a great injustice at the hands of terrorists."
"The Kurdistan Regional Government is committed to fighting for the protection of the rights of all the populations,” adding, “The Ezidis are an inherent part of the Kurdish nation and their rights and demands will be preserved and protected. We will do everything we can to further serve our Ezidi brothers and sister.”
Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani said, "We congratulate the Ezidis on New Year's Day in Kurdistan and all over the world, particularly the families of the victims of terrorism who are still in displacement camps. I hope that future celebrations and events will be under better circumstances."
Addressing the current worldwide health crisis, he said, "This holiday comes at a time when Kurdistan like the rest of the world is under the influence of the corona pandemic, and the fate of thousands of Ezidi brothers and sisters who became victims of terrorist hands remain unknown... In these situations, we all must abide by health instructions and protect ourselves."
"On this occasion, we reassure once again that, as long as even one of our Ezidi brothers or sisters remains missing, we will whatever is necessary to find and free those who remaining kidnapped,” said the regional president, adding that “we will continue with our efforts to elevate Shingal to a province and rebuild its damaged areas.”
Editing by John J. Catherine