Yezidi spiritual leader dies in Kurdistan Region
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The top spiritual leader of the Yezidi (Ezidi) religious minority passed away while receiving medical treatment at a hospital in the Kurdistan Region's capital of Erbil at age 87 on Thursday.
Sheikh Khartu Hajji Ismael, commonly known as Baba Sheikh, had a “remarkable role in developing religious coexistence,” said Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani in a statement of condolence released shortly afterward.
“His Excellency Baba Sheikh was a prominent personality and had an important position both across the Kurdistan Region and the world,” Barzani added.
Born in Duhok province’s Sheikhan district to a religious family, Baba Sheikh rose to the highest position in the Ezidi faith and was the custodian of Lalish Temple, its holiest site of worship.
Following a sudden deterioration in his health, the leader was admitted to hospital in Duhok before being transferred to Erbil to be placed in an intensive care unit.
“His teachings of forgiveness and coexistence were crucial to the recovery of the Yezidi community, women especially, from one of its cruelest chapters,” Prime Minister Barzani wrote in a tweet.
I join the Yazidi people in Kurdistan and the world over in mourning the passing of their spiritual leader Baba Sheikh. His teachings of forgiveness and co-existence were crucial to the recovery of the Yazidi community, women especially, from one of its cruellest chapters -mb.— Masrour Barzani پابەندین# (@masrour_barzani) October 1, 2020
The emergence of the Islamic State and its violent assault on the Ezidi-majority city of Sinjar (Shingal) in 2014 led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands in the religious sect. Most of them fled to the Kurdistan Region, while others resettled in neighboring countries in the region or in 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 in actions now widely recognized as genocide.
There are about one million Ezidis worldwide, with almost half of them living in Iraq and the autonomous Kurdistan Region.
Soon after the announcement of Baba Sheikh's death, statements of remembrance and respect were released by individuals, governments, and organizations across the globe.
Editing by John J. Catherine