Top Kurdistan leaders affirm 'commitment to the principles of religious and national coexistence' on Yezidi holiday

The Kurdistan Region’s top official on Tuesday extended his congratulations to the Yezidi (Ezidi) minority in the region and the world on the occasion of the "Jamayi Festival", affirming the region's full support to the rights of the Yezidis.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Top political figures in the autonomous Kurdistan Region called attention to the Yezidi (Ezidi) religious minority during the annual observance of their pilgrimage to their holiest site in the region's Duhok Province. 

"On this occasion, we affirm our commitment to the principles of religious and national coexistence in Kurdistan,” said Masoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), in a statement.

He expressed his hope that "all Ezidis will live on through their festivals and religious celebrations with joy, calm conditions, and stability" and for an end to all pain and suffering that the community has lived through in recent years

The emergence of the Islamic State and its violent assault on Sinhar (Shingal) in 2014 led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of members of the religious community. Most of them fled to the Kurdistan Region, while others resettled in neighboring countries 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 what are now widely recognized as acts of genocide.

Last week, beloved Ezidi spiritual leader Sheikh Khartu Hajji Ismael, commonly known as Baba Sheikh, passed away at age 87 while receiving medical treatment at an Erbil hospital.

Read More: Yezidi spiritual leader dies in Kurdistan Region

The holiday that began on Tuesday, known as the Gathering and Feast of Seven Days and also the Jamayi Eid, is a week-long rite in which Ezidis make a pilgrimage to Duhok's temple of Lalish, the religion's most holy site.

Read More: PHOTOS: Take a walking tour of Lalish's main temple

For his part, Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani wished for a "blessed and great holiday for all Ezidis in Kurdistan and the world," wishing them one "full of happiness and that the next Eid will be in the light of better conditions for everyone."

Barzani also noted the passing of Baba Sheikh, saying he "remembered his service to the Ezidis with respect and appreciation."

Earlier in the day, Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani pledged his government’s ongoing efforts to provide services to Ezidis in the Kurdistan Region and in territories disputed by the regional and federal governments such as the Ezidi-majority city of Sinjar (Shingal).

Read More: Kurdistan PM congratulates Yezidis on annual pilgrimage, calls for Sinjar security to be 'normalized'

He explained that, in the interest of safety, the security situation in such areas must be “normalized” so that displaced Ezidis now living in camps “can return to their homes with their heads held high.”

Editing by John J. Catherine