Sunday, 10 August 2014

Yezidis face massacre today


The terrible news of the Yezidis threatened with death today by ISIS, if they do not convert to Islam, deserves I feel to be given as much attention as possible. Every little helps, including this blog. The latest news is here.

There is outrage and a wave of humanitarian feeling around the Western world which has led Mr Obama to intervene - compare the motives which led Mr Putin to intervene in Ukraine. What is remarkable is that I have not heard Muslims condemning what has happened. Lady Warsi seems to be silent, for example.

Robert Fisk, in one of his annoying but pertinent pieces, points out that the danger to the Shia from ISIS did not provoke Mr Obama to intervene but the plight of the Kurds, Christians and Yezidis does. Yes, but the plight of the Yezidis moved the world which hardened its heart and ignored that of the Christians. Defending the Kurds was simply a necessity for the USA - Kurdish Iraq was the one good thing to have come out of the Senecan tragedy of the Second Iraq War.

I was strongly against intervention in Syria and am still more so when I see that ISIS would have benefited mightily from US intervention in support of the so-called moderate rebels. I was moved by humanitarian impulses to want, or sort of want, intervention in Libya - I feared that a certain town that was about to fall to Gaddafi would be massacred. Now I do not believe that this would have happened and that we were being manipulated by sloppy journalism and the British and French governments. But I believe the Yezidis are in great danger. We must help.

Lalish, the spiritual centre of the Yezidis was the most fascinating place I ever visited in my life and has, though a  pagan place, a remarkably palpable spirituality as well as being wonderfully strange.

Much misinformation is going around about the Yezidi religion. It might be the oldest in the world, is millennia older than Islam, rather than being a Muslim heresy. In fact my own suspicion is that Zarathustra, the founder of Zoroastrianism, was  a Yezidi heretic.

The tenets of this religion are mysterious even to its adherents. Only the priests know many of the teachings which are preserved in oral traditions. Books have been published purporting to be their holy books but are believed to be forgeries written by non Yezidis.

I was told that there is a secret black book in which their teachings are kept  in the village of Qasr 'tzz at-Din. Everything about the Yezidis seems mysterious, in a world with little mystery.

One of their rules is not to eat lettuce. According to a writer in the New York Times writing before the 2003 war, quoting a Yezidi

The caliphs of the Ottoman Empire carried out no fewer than 72 massacres against the Yazidis in the 18th and 19th centuries alone, he explained, with the faithful slain by the thousands in the lettuce fields then dotting northeastern Iraq.

Watching the blood of innocents gush into the greens prompted a lasting aversion to the vegetable, Mr. Juma said, speaking with what sounded like real authority.

That is not quite right, a sect elder spelled out later. Indeed Yazidis suffered persecution, he said, such that one ruthless potentate who controlled the nearby splendid city of Mosul in the 13th century ordered an early Yazidi saint executed. The enthusiastic crowd then pelted the corpse with heads of lettuce. There have been sanctions against salad ever since, the elder intoned.
Ask a government-issued minder from Mosul, a Muslim, and he mutters about how Yazidis believe that the local romaine houses Lucifer, whom he says they worship, so they refuse to chop the heads off the roots.

In the end, the art of dissembling about their religion, perhaps the strongest Yazidi tradition, triumphs. No clear explanation emerges.

As far as I know the greatest Western authority on Yezidis is Eszter Spat who wrote a book with that title that I very highly recommend. Here she is speaking about Yezidis.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe it would be good to spread a rumour that Israel has trapped these poor Yazidis on the mountain then we can have demonstrations in the cities, collections for the people and acres of Guardian coverage. Tim