Hundreds of Yazidis are in training on the Iraq border with Kurdistan preparing to take the fight back to the Islamic militants who have subjected their people to persecution. The world has now been awoken to the plight of this religious minority and the volunteers who are training are determined to avenge the bloody murder of the past weeks.
“We are here at this camp in order to get training and go back to defend our families, honour and land. YPG – Kurdish forces – have helped us and they are now training us. They gave us food,aid, uniforms and weapons,” explained Hussein Mired a Yazidi volunteer.
They are predominantly ethnically Kurdish and have kept alive their syncretic religion – a fusion of different beliefs – for centuries. It is rumoured to have been founded in the 11th century and includes elements of an ancient Persian faith, Christianity and Islam.
At the core is their worship of Melek Tawwus or Peacock Angel. The importance of the angel to the Yazidi people has given them the reputation of devil worshippers. In the climate of extremism which has gripped Iraq it has left these ancient people in the firing line.
Such persecution is not new. Under Ottoman rule in the 18th and 19th centuries they were subjected to 72 genocidal massacres.
More recently according to the Iraqi Red Crescent close to 800 were killed in a spate of car bombs in northern Iraq in 2007.
The rise of Islamic fundamentalism has pushed thousands of Yazidis to seek asylum in Europe. There is a large community in Germany. Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey are among other countries where they have settled. But their home is northern Iraq and their domain Mount Sinjar, or it used to be.
“I don’t know, I don’t know if we will ever be able to go back. We don’t want Mount Sinjar anymore. If it’s going to remain like this we don’t want to go back. If we go back today, we will all be dead tomorrow,” said one Yazidi man.
Where now can the Yazidis find safety? Their annual religious ceremony at Lalesh temple in northern Iraq which they believe to be the holiest place on earth has in the past few years been cancelled due to fear of attacks.
It has now reportedly been turned into a refuge for internally displaced Yazidis.