On eve of Yezidi New Year, Kurdistan pledges 'strong support for your just demands'
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On the eve of the Yezidi (Ezidi) New Year, the Kurdistan Region's top official offered congratulations and spoke to the beleaguered religious minority's community.
Ezidis gather yearly for the occasion, known as Red Wednesday, at their holiest site, the temple of Lalish in Duhok province.
“I extend my warmest congratulations and best wishes to our Ezidi sisters and brothers in Kurdistan and the world, wishing that the new year will be a year of happiness and blessings, and a key to the end of suffering,” said Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Masrour Barzani in a statement.
"And I take this opportunity to assure the Ezidis once again," he continued, "of the KRG’s strong support for your just demands, and is doing its best to serve you better while working on returning the displaced to their homes and the reconstruction of their areas with the help of the Iraqi government and the international community."
The emergence of the Islamic State and its violent 2014 assault on the Yezidi-majority city of Sinjar (Shingal), located in one of Iraq's disputed territories near the Syrian border, led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of members of the minority community. Most led 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.
Many Yezidis say they are afraid to return to their areas of origin, in and around Shingal, because of the lack of services, infrastructure, and security. Leaders within the community have demanded that their towns and villages be rebuilt and guarded effectively.
Barzani stressed that the implementation of the Sinjar Agreement is “an important factor in order to establish security and stability in the region.”
The deal, reached between the KRG and the federal government in October, aims to rebuild Sinjar and normalize the security situation, most notably by mandating the ouster of various armed groups that operate in the vicinity.
Editing by John J. Catherine