On July 21st, 2017, after nine grueling months of fighting, the Iraqi Army drove out the last remnants of so called Islamic State from Mosul, issuing a major victory in the fight against the insurgent group.
It’s easy to get caught up in the geopolitical drama. However, with such gratifying news, I’ve noticed a lack of coverage in regards to the civilians held captive by Islamic State, in particular the Yazidi women who were raped and tortured.
This is an issue the Iraqi Government must handle with care. They’ve liberated northern Iraq; now they must figure out how to integrate the Yazidis back into society. In this article, we’ll take a look at who exactly the Yazidis are and the different possibilities on how they can move forward with their lives.
Who are the Yazidis?
The Yazidis are a group of Kurds who are isolated from the rest of the Middle East, primarily due to their beliefs. With elements of Islam, Zoroastrianism, Mithraism, and Christianity, Yazidism is a monotheistic religion which is said to have gotten its start in the 12th century when Adi ibn Musafir, a sufi leader who migrated to northern Iraq to establish a community. Despite little communities around the Middle East, the majority are settled in Iraq.
Those who practice Yazidism believe in what is called the Peacock Angel, an angel that serves as the link between God and humanity. Long ago, there was an angel called Melek Taus, who refused to bow down to Adam and Eve. As punishment, God threw him into eternal fire. However, when Melek begged for forgiveness, his tears put out the flames (See: “Who are the Yazidis, the Ancient, Struggling to Survive in Iraq?“) and reconciled with God. This is similar in many ways to the concept of Satan, except instead of representing evil, Malek represents repentance and forgiveness.
So why are they being targeted by Islamic State?
The same that can be said for any oppressed group in the history of the world: A difference from the norm. Because their practice is considered highly unorthodox by the Muslim world, many Yazidis are labeled as devil worshippers and heretics. Considering that Islamic State strictly adheres to an extreme version of Sunni Islam, the Yazidis have been on the top of their list.
Because of the violence, many Yazidis have been forced to the Sinjar Mountains in isolation.
What happens now?
Despite the defeat of Islamic State, the threat is not over; with the instability of the Middle East, it is inevitable that another insurgency group will rise from the ashes and terrorize the Yazidis once again, as many have done in the past. The Iraqi Government needs to make an effort so that none of the atrocities committed by those under Baghdadi ever happen again. This goes with the rebuilding of the government from their victory in Northern Iraq.
The Yazidis will have to live with what they’ve gone through for the rest of their lives. But this doesn’t have to be the case anymore.
NOTE: Matt Dohle is a student of Brian Jennings Bosnian-American Studies Class at Affton High School, St. Louis, MO