Masoud Barzani congratulates new Yezidi spiritual leader

Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani on Wednesday congratulated the newly-inaugurated spiritual leader, known as the Baba Sheikh, of the Yezidi (Ezidi) religious minority.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani on Wednesday congratulated the newly-inaugurated spiritual leader of the Yezidi (Ezidi) religious minority.

On Saturday, Ezidis elected Ali Elias Haji Nasir to the position, also known as a Baba Sheikh, succeeding his father, the late Khartu Hajji Ismael who passed away early last month.

Read More: Yezidis elect new spiritual leader over a month after passing of predecessor

The crowning took place at the Ezidis' holiest site of Lalish, located in the Kurdistan Region's Duhok province.

“I’m thankful to my people, and my Mir (prince) for this great honor,” Baba Sheikh Elias, as he will now be addressed, told Kurdistan 24, stressing the importance of “peace and coexistence among all the religions.”    

Barzani expressed his wishes that the new spiritual leader would help bring new unity and harmony for those within the Ezidi community.

He also said he hoped that the new leader “would be a gateway toward an end to the group's pain and suffering, an end to their life of mass displacement, and an end to the ethnic cleansing” that they have faced in recent years.

Barzani also stressed the need to protect Ezidis and all other religious and ethnic communities within the Kurdistan Region. 

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 of Ezidi civilians. Most of them fled to the Kurdistan Region, while others resettled to 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 females 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 Nineveh province, 360,000 Ezidis escaped and found refuge elsewhere, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Ezidi Rescue Office.

Editing by John J. Catherine