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The Yezidis in Iraq: the government’s neglect is still ongoing

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The current number of Yezidis in Iraq is estimated, according to unofficial statistics, to be more than 700,000 people spread over three main regions: Sinjar (Shingal), the largest Yezidi city in Iraq and in the world; the Nineveh plain, which encompasses several areas for Yezidis, of which the most important is Sheikhan, the site of the first and largest Yezidi religious edifice, the Temple of Lalish, in addition to the areas of Bashique and Bahzani and the other villages such as Khatara and Mahat; the third area is in Dohuk province in Kurdistan, with three main sites, Shariya, Khananki, and Derbon.

After the events of 2014 and the invasion of ISIS in Sinjar and its genocide of the Yezidis, more than 150,000 Yezidis have emigrated from Iraq, according to the United Nations. The large number of migrants is due to several reasons, of which the most important is ISIS and the genocide, as well as the neglect of the Yezidis by the Iraqi government. In Iraq, during all the conflict between the major political groups, the small groups of religious minorities were neglected, and their rights were even directly violated.

Representation in the Iraqi government is divided into sectarian quotas. Minorities received small quotas, which primarily went to Christians. The Yezidis have suffered politically in recent times, although five representatives with a Yezidi religious background were candidates in the most recent Iraqi parliamentary elections, but four of them belonged to Kurdish political parties.

A member of parliament belongs to a Yezidi party that holds the “quota” seats for Yezidis, although the Federal Court of Justice, the highest judicial authority, has decided that the Yezidis’ quota, which is determined by population, should give them at least five seats. This, however, was immediately rejected by the major political parties, and the Yezidis received only one seat, which clearly violates the judicial decision.

The Iraqi journalist Riyad al-Hamdani observes that the big blocs will not hesitate to control the minority seats in the Iraqi parliament whenever the opportunity arises, and it is clear that the current quota seats are also allocated in a certain political context, which means that they’re controlled by the big political blocs, and that there is no free representation of minorities in Parliament. Al-Hamdani considers the Iraqi parliamentary election law to be unfair for religious minorities, especially since it prevents diaspora Iraqis from voting, and this means that, given the number of Iraqi immigrants, most of whom are religious minorities, that the minority groups, particularly Yezidis and Christians, are the most affected.

In addition, the Iraqi government did not pay attention to the full rights of the Yezidis. Those who checked the political situation of the Yezidis in Iraq would find that no Yezidi minister had been appointed through the tenures of four governments, and Yezidi representation in the Iraqi government was limited to the rank of diplomat or general manager; this confirms the Iraqi government’s neglect of the Yezidis and its sectarian and racist basis. The neglect has ranged from doing nothing regarding the reconstruction of the destroyed Yezidi territories in Sinjar. According to a press release of the Governor of Nineveh, Najm al-Jubouri, we can look for more neglect, as he has stated that there will be no reconstruction or rebuilding in Sinjar unless the displaced people return there. But how can they, when the city is 75% destroyed? 

Political and armed conflicts, as well as the destruction and the absence of justice, prevent Yezidis from returning to their homeland.

The Yezidi journalist Theyab Ghanem was surprised by the governor’s statements: “We are used to such things after we allocated an amount of money, and although the amount was small, namely $25 million, that is nothing compared to the devastation in the Sinjar city, we were surprised that the amount was canceled without notice.”

Ghanem asked the Iraqi government to pay more attention to the Yezidis and their regions, and to keep them out of political conflicts, because they are a psychologically and morally devastated society, and are exposed to constant catastrophes due to the conflicts over Sinjar. It is clear that Sinjar in the current period is outside the plan of the Iraqi government, because the political situation in the country is complex.

This neglect has led to differences and conflicts in the Yezidi regions. There are Iraqi political attempts to change the world’s view of the Yezidis and conceal their humanitarian needs. It is necessary for the Yezidis to take serious steps to standardize their future plans, to find a formula that serves their society, and to face the challenges and difficulties which they will have in the future due to political and regional conflicts. The resistance of the Yezidis against ISIS and its predecessors was motivated by a desire to live in peace and ultimately attain a better life, and those aspirations remain, but now what has happened is the transformation of their cause by some political parties into a political issue that is being manipulated by forces that do not have the Yezidis’ best interests at heart.

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