IRAQ: Dashed Yezidi dreams

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CPTnet
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30 September 2005
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<P>IRAQ: Dashed Yezidi dreams
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<P><P>On 15 September 2005, members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Iraq
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met with members of the Yezidi Academic &amp; Cultural Association and the
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Yezidi Political Movement. The representatives were seeking assistance in
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their advocacy for the rights of the Yezidi minority.
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<P>According to the people at the meeting, the Yezidi community is indigenous
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to Iraq with religious practice dating back to the Sumerian period in
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Mesopotamia, circa 2000 BCE. There were a million Yezidis in 1700, but
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today there are about 650,000 Yezidis, 90% of whom live in
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Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq near the city of Mosul. Under the
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repression of the Saddam Hussein regime, Yezidi towns and villages did not
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receive basic services such as water, electricity, healthcare and
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education, and as a result suffered a severe state of poverty and
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illiteracy.
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<P>The Yezidis placed high hopes in the creation of the new Iraq, and fought
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successfully for their inclusion among the cultural and religious groups
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protected by Section 1, article #2 of the new constitution. They dreamed of
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sharing in the freedom and democracy of the new Iraq.
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<P>The harsh reality experienced by the Yezidis today has dashed that dream.
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There have been no positive changes in their economic, health and
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educational well-being. Politically, they find themselves marginalized by
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Kurdish political authorities currently in control of northern Iraq, and
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harassed by both of the two most powerful Kurdish political parties. They
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accuse government officials of diverting
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funds slated for a Yezidi town of 20,000 to a smaller Kurdish village of
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1,000. In the elections of 2005, some Yezidi villages received no ballots,
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while villages with ballots lacked the promised buses for
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voter transportation. Some polls opened from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. only
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and some ballot boxes were stuffed before voting even started.
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<P>More ominous is the violence experienced by the budding Yezidi political
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parties--threats, accusations of terrorism, kidnapping, rape, and even an
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assassination in spring 2005. Accepting political
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leadership as a Yezidi endangers one's life.
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<P>The Yezidis are demanding a stop to discrimination and the negative
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political tactics of the Kurdish government aimed at assimilation of the
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Yezidis rather than their recognition of them as a distinct people, neither
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Arabs or Kurds. And they demand the right to have their own
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representatives in the new Iraqi Assembly and Iraqi Parliament.
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<P>It appears that despite the protections written into the constitution, the
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new Iraq is failing to deliver democracy, and the Yezidi communities of
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Northern Iraq are facing continued marginalization, increasing invisibility
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and forced assimilation into Kurdish society.
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