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Yazidis call on international community

3 May 20190 comments

Yazidi refugees in Australia have called for more international action to save their people in captivity or those living in camps after fleeing northern Iraq.

The calls have come after news of a massacre of 50 women following the discovery of a mass grave containing dozens of people, thought to be Yazidis captured and enslaved by Islamic State, was unearthed in an area recently seized by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Yazidi communities in Melbourne, Wagga Wagga, Coffs Harbour and Toowoomba have held rallies to highlight the plight of the minority religious group, thousands of whom were taken captive by IS militants in 2014.

Melbourne Yazidi community spokesman Khalaf Bashier, said his community was grateful for the support of the Australian Government, but that more needed to be done by governments across the world.

“A few weeks ago we had about a dozen children killed in Syria and now we have 50 women and girls killed. We are taking a stand and saying this is not acceptable. We want all of these women are back from ISIS,” Mr Bashier said.

In Toowoomba, hundreds of people attended a rally, including more than 80 Yazidi high school students.

Since humanitarian intakes from Syria and Iraq started in 2016, the Darling Downs city in Queensland has resettled hundreds of Yazidi families.

Nihad Barakt, from the Shingal region in northern Iraq, now lives in Toowoomba.

“We are making a stand here against the crimes that have happened against the Yazidi community in Baghuz. We just ask everyone to help us,” Ms Barakt said.

“I was kidnapped by ISIS for a year and a half. I saw many terrible things — they raped me and they hit me,” she told ABC radio.

At a rally of about 300 people in Wagga, in southern NSW, Yazidis carried photos depicting atrocities against their people and placards appealing for help from the international community as they rallied and then marched up the city’s main street.

One, Haji Gundor, said Australia should take in more Yazidi refugees.

“My message is for human rights organisations and especially the UN, because since 2014 they know what’s happened to us but they have not done anything for us,” Mr Gundor said.

The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious/ethnic minority who have maintained their faith despite centuries of persecution.

Yazidis are secretive about their complex religion, its rituals, and its origins, and this has often led to misunderstandings and fuelled tensions.

Their faith is said to have been derived in part from ancient Persian Zoroastrianism, which pre-dates both Islam and Christianity.

Yazidi spirituality and practices also include elements and traditions of Christianity, Islam and the Judaism.

The Yazidi believe they were created separately from the rest of humanity and are descended from Adam but not Eve.

The Yazidi people are defined by their monotheistic faith, with a belief in one Supreme Being, Yazdan, from whom seven great spirits emanate.

The paramount spirit is the Peacock Angel, who carries out Yazdan’s divine wishes. Yazdan and the Peacock Angel are regarded as inseparable.

This is an oral culture, with the traditions and secrets passed down through the generations.

In traditional Yazidi society a Chief Sheikh fulfils the role of supreme religious leader, while a secular emir rules a community structured under a rigid caste system.

Laurie Nowell 
AMES Australia Senior Journalist