On the situation of the Êzîdî in Şengal

The Êzîdî community is one of the oldest religious communities in Mesopotamia and dates back to about 2,000 years before our era. It is a very nature-loving faith in which the sacred four elements water, air/wind, earth and light (in the form of sun and fire) have a special meaning and importance. The Êzîdî faith is monotheistic, i.e. only one deity is perceived. Unlike other monotheistic religions, however, this deity has no antagonist who is blamed for evil.

The Êzîdî image of men is determined by the fact that people themselves are responsible for their work and actions. All human beings have received from the Godhead the gift of hearing, seeing and thinking and thus the prerequisites for walking the right path. Among the Êzîdîs there is a view that an Êzîdîs can be a good person, but to be a good person you do not have to be Êzîdî. This is because the Êzîdî faith has no claim to sole validity, which means that there is not only one truth but many truths.

The Êzîdî faith has an ethnoconfessional character, i.e. it is a religious community that exists only among Kurds. Therefore, the settlement area of the Êzîdîs is the same as that of the Kurds, namely areas in northern Iraq, northeastern Syria (Rojava) and southeastern Turkey. However, the main settlement area is located in northern Iraq, especially in Şengal and Şêxan. About 600,000-700,000 Êzîdîs live there. It is estimated that there are about 1,000,000 Êzîdîs worldwide, about 120,000-180,000 of whom live in Germany, making them the largest Êzîdî community outside Kurdistan.

The temple in Laliş in northern Iraq is the main pilgrimage site of the Êzîdîs. It is said that there Şîxadî, the highest saint in Êzîdî faith passed into the afterlife. Every October, the week-long festival Cimaya Şêxadî (the assembly in honor of Şêxadî) takes place there. In addition to Laliş, there are several other places of pilgrimage around Mount Şengal. The largest are Ziyareta Şerfedîn and Ziyareta Çilmêra. Often these places have one or more lamellar bright pointed towers.

In Êzîdî faith there are various holy days. One of them is Çarşema Sor (Red Wednesday). Çarşema Sor is on April 1 of the Êzîdî calendar (according to the Gregorian calendar, the first Wednesday after April 13). In Êzîdî mythology, it is the day when the creation of the earth was completed. The sun’s rays reached the earth for the first time, so that the sky turned red. With the sun’s rays, Tawisî Melek (the head of the seven Êzîdî archangels) also came to earth for the first time. Therefore, Wednesday is the day of rest of the Êzîdîs. When the first rays of sunshine hit the earth on April 1, spring begins and with it the New Year. The arrest of Marlene and Matej by the Iraqi army took place on April 20 on the way back from the Çarşema Sor festival, about which the two journalists wanted to report.

The history of the Êzîdîs is marked by discrimination and persecution. So far, the Êzîdîs count 74 genocides by enemies who had declared them infidels. Most of the genocides took place during the Ottoman Empire. The last ongoing genocide was in 2014 by the so-called Islamic State in Şengal. The Êzîdîs have always been subjected to double persecution, because of their faith but also as members of the Kurdish people. But they resisted in order not to give up their ways of life, customs and culture.

The oppression of the Êzîdîs happened and continues to happen on the one hand through open violence in the form of massacres, abductions, rapes, torture or the threat of this violence in order to expel them through fear. On the other hand, the Êzîdîs in Shengal were and are oppressed by the Arab assimilation policy, especially that of the Baath Party in the 1960s and 1970s. During this time, Êzîdî were expelled from their villages in the Şengal Mountains and settled at the foot of the mountain, while Arabs were settled in the emptied villages. Through the Arab villages that were thus created between Rojava and Şengal, the contact between the Êzîdîs in the Şengal and the Êzîdîs in Rojava was to be prevented in order to assimilate the Êzîdîs inwardly. This policy of assimilation was accompanied by various reprisals: for example the Êzîdîs were forbidden to stay on Mount Şengal for a long time, on which the death penalty was written.

The fact that the Êzîdîs could not be converted to other faiths is due to their social and political mechanisms to defend themselves. The Êzîdîs have various protective mechanisms inwards against the attempts to destroy the Êzîdî roots. Since an Êzîdî can only be born as a child of Êzîdî parents, the Êzîdîs are not allowed to marry people of other faiths. If they do, they will be expelled from the Êzîdî community. The aim is to ensure that people do not leave the Êzîdî community and turn their backs on Êzîdî culture. But also externally the Êzîdîs have tried to protect themselves. Because of their many persecutions, the Êzîdîs never openly practiced their faith, could not practice it openly. As a result, most of their history, beliefs, tradition were only handed down orally. They always hid to protect themselves from attack. Throughout history, the Êzîdîs have repeatedly retreated to the protective mountains during attacks, from where they were able to defend themselves due to geography.

After the liberation of Şengal from the so-called Islamic State, the Êzîdîs – together with the Kurds, Arabs and Christians living in Şengal – began to establish an autonomous administration based on direct democracy. These democratic structures include people’s, women’s and youth councils, schools and academies. But structures of legitimate self-defense are also part of the autonomous administration. Already during the liberation of Şengal, the so-called resistance units of Şengal YBŞ and the women’s defense units of Şengal YJŞ were established. The Asayîsha Êzîdxanê (police-like structures), which ensure the security of society within the cities and villages, are also part of this administration. They all have a responsibility to protect society in Şengal from further genocide.