Monday, April 23, 2007

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Yazidi women have also suffered. One Yazidi refugee, who chose to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, told of how Muslim extremists would abduct Yazidi women from the fields where they were working and force them to convert to Islam. This is a double affront to the Yazidi faith as it perverts one of the courtship and marriage rituals of the Yazidi culture.

The above is from a report released the last week of February (2007) by Minority Rights Group International entitled "Assimilation, Exodus, Eradication: Iraq's minority communities since 2003" -- warning (PDF format) report. As documented in the report, the Yazidis are among the minorites that are 10% of the Iraqi population (but note, many have left -- at the start of 2006 in Amman, Jordan, most Iraqi refugees seeking asylum were Christians) which includes Trukomans, Mandaens, Palestinians, Baha'is, Armenians, Jews, Shabaks and Faili Kurkds. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are 800,000 Yazidis and 550,000 of them live in Iraq. From the report:

Since 2003, Islamist groups have declared Yazidis 'impure' and leaftlets have been distributed in Mosul by Islamic extremists calling for the death of all members of the Yazidi community. Between September and December 2004, the killing of more than 25 Yazidis was recorded, as well as more than 50 violent crimes targeting members of the community. On 17 August 2004, a young man from Bashiqa was beheaded and mutilated by insurgents as he was considered to be a non-believer. On 21 October, 2004 the decapitated bodies of two men were found between Talafar and Sinjar. A few days earlier, they had been threatened by radical Muslims in Talafar for allegedly not respecting the ban on somking during the holy month of Ramadan. In December 2004, radical Muslims in Talafar killed five Yazidis.

This is the group that Alissa J. Rubin's "Iraqi Premier Orders Work Stopped on Wall" (New York Times) notes today:

The police said that when the woman married, she converted to Islam, which angered some of the Yezidis. She was kidnapped and as she was being brought back to her tribe, a crowd gathered and stoned her to death, said Brig. Gen. Muhammad al-Waqa of the Mosul police.
The Sunni Arabs in the area demanded that the Yezidis turn over the killers, and the police also put out a warrant for their arrest. In one Yezidi-majority town east of Mosul, residents found leaflets saying, "Unless you turn them over, we will never let any Yezidi breathe the air."
The Yezidis refused. On Sunday afternoon, armed men stopped minibuses traveling from a government textile factory in Mosul, where many Yezidis and Christians were known to work. The men dragged the passengers off the buses, checked their identity cards and lined the Yezidis up against a wall and shot them, killing 23 people and wounding three, General Waqa said.

Rubin also writes that the Yazidis (spelled in the Times as "Yezidis") practice a religion that's
"an offshoot of Islam that combines some Muslim teachings with those of ancient Persian religion." That's an oversimplification that may result from the fact that few media reports bother to cover the group. They may (or may not) reflect a people whose physical surroundings have infuenced their religious beliefs. There are various strands in their religion. Some Christians and Muslims in Iraq have derided the Yazidis (derided is actually too mild) as "Devil worshipers" due to their belief that God (they are monotheists) cast down an angel -- the Peacock Angel (Malak Ta'us) -- who was forgiven and now is responsible for protecting this world. Six other angels exist. The Peacock Angel is seen by some other faiths as Lucifer. For that reason they are tarred with "Devil worshippers" by some. Now guess what? If you're new to the Yazidis, those sentences don't even begin to illuminate their belief systems. So Rubin's introducing a new element to the reporting on Iraq and summarizing it. I won't slam for that but I will note it's a complex system (as are most religions) and that Rubin's short handing. (I did the same in this entry.)

We noted it last night and we've noted it many times before, the mainstream media portrays Iraq as Sunnis and Shias. There are many other minorities making up the population (though Jewish people in Baghdad have all but fled since the start of the illegal war -- only a few of the elderly remain). From the Reuters article:

Waggaa said the execution-style killing appeared to be in retaliation for an incident in which a Yazidi woman was stoned to death several weeks ago for converting to Islam. He said the workers were found near a mosque in the same area.
Another police source who declined to be named confirmed the incident and said the woman had fallen in love with a Muslim man and ran away with him a few months ago.
Police then detained the couple, kept the man in jail and freed the woman after receiving assurances from her family she would not be harmed.
According to the source, members of the Yazidi community decided they had to "cleanse the shame", and stoned the woman to death.

The continued portrayal of the situation in Iraq leaves out many minority populations (who are very much a part of the story) and it also tends to present two groups (Sunnis and Shias) with little notion of the wars within each group. Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) recently noted the split, in Basra, "between warring Shia groups."

We'll close by noting Dahr Jamail's "Interview with Senior Ba'ath Party Member" (Dahr Jamail's MidEast Dispatches) which Eddie e-mailed to highlight:

Dahr Jamail: Please tell me a little about your position.
Abu Mohammed: I am a representative of the Ba'ath Party and Iraq's National Resistance.
DJ: Western corporate media portrays most of the violence in Iraq as if it is the Iraqis who are killing each other with suicide car bombs in markets, etc. What is your opinion of Iraqi on Iraqi violence?
AM: As a matter of fact, since the beginning of the occupation, the Iraqi resistance has been doing their operations only against American troops and their allies. Iraqis killing each other and civilians dying is the fault of the invaders because there are too many parties and all these parties formed militias. Some of these are supported by the Americans, some by the Zionists, and some by the Iranians. But the job of the Iraqi resistance is to get rid of the American occupation and they are not killing civilians.

DJ: Then who is responsible for killing the civilians?
AM: The militias and invaders. The occupation forces and militias sponsored by the Americans, the militias backed by the Americans, Zionists, and Iranians. The goal from this is to make the resistance appear bad, as well as simply to kill Iraqis.
DJ: Friends I know in Baquba say the resistance is fighting Al-Qaeda there. Is this happening in Al-Anbar province as well?
AM: Al-Qaeda was not in Iraq before the invasion, nor their allies. Al-Qaeda started their work in Iraq after the invasion. As Ba'athists, we look at Al-Qaeda as different-they have different strategies, beliefs and tactics, it’s all different. Al-Qaeda aims to follow the Americans and kill them anywhere in the world. The Iraqi resistance only kills American troops in Iraq-so this is an important difference between us.
DJ: American leaders claim they have had talks with the Iraqi resistance. Is this true?
AM: The American administration and the American troops are getting used to lies. They invaded Iraq, they looted Iraq, they killed Iraqis and all of this was based on lies. They took the former government to a court and judged them and executed them and all of this was based on lies and illegalities. The invasion itself was based on weapons of mass destruction, and relations with Al-Qaeda - then it turns out there are no weapons of mass destruction and no relations with Al-Qaeda, so they were both lies. The Americans having negotiations with the resistance is also a lie. Up to now we've seen no move towards negotiations with the resistance about Iraq's rights. If the Americans want to get out of Iraq and save face, they have to negotiate with the resistance and Ba’ath Party leaders in order to negotiate Iraq's rights.

We probably shouldn't include a Ba'ath party member without noting that David Brancaccio considers them the equivalent of Nazis. For more on that and other right-wing, neocon talking points promoted by Brancaccio see "TV: Pigs and Prigs on PBS' NOW" (Ava and my TV review at The Third Estate Sunday Review). The e-mail address for this site is