STP Middle East Department – PRESS RELEASE

Göttingen, 16 August 2007

After bomb attacks in North Iraq Plebiscite on the Belonging of Yezidi region Sinjar is demanded

After the dreadful attacks against the small Yezidi towns of Til Ezer and Siba Sheikh Khidir near Sinjar in the largest Yezidi region of North Iraq during which about 400 people were killed, the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) demanded a onvincing solution for this contentious region on Wednesday. “Only a plebiscite in the near future can show whether the majority of the Yezidi population seeks affiliation to the North Iraqi State of Kurdistan”, announced STP General Secretary Tilman Zülch.

Yezidi politicians argue for an autonomous status for the region within Kurdistan. Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution allows for such a possibility. Yezidi fear that they otherwise will continue to be outnumbered by Muslims and be turned into a minority.

“Many Yezidi want their region to belong to Kurdistan because the situation there is secure and peaceful,” said Dr. Dakhil Said Khidir, member of STP advisory board in Kurdistan/North Iraq on the phone. In the highland of Sinjar lives the largest Yezidi-Kurdish community world-wide with up to 400.000 people. The area can by now only be reached via one single, unsafe street.

“Also in the city of Mosul Yezidi have more and more frequently become victims of attacks, persecution and death threats by Muslim fundamentalists.” According to STP, at least 20.000 Kurdish families have fled from Mosul since 2003.

Background Information:
Among the mostly Muslim Kurds, the Yezidi are a Middle Eastern, non-Christian and non-Muslim minority community that is thousands of years old. They speak the Kurmanci dialect of the Kurdish language and live in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Armenia, Georgia as well as within the European Diaspora.

It is estimated that there are about 800.000 Yezidi world-wide. Their main area of settlement is in North Iraq. About 550.000 Yezidi live there, with an estimated 400.000 in the Sinjar region alone. There they form about 80 per cent of the population. About 45.000 Yezidi live in Germany, most of them are religious refugees from Turkey.

Sinjar, which today is one of the most disputed regions in Iraq is located in farthest northwest of the state and has so far been part of the Nineveh Province, the capital of which is Mosul. In its west it shares a border with Syria. The main city Sinjar has about 40.000 inhabitants, the majority of them – as in most other towns of the district – are Kurdish Yezidi.

The Yezidi have had a long history of suffering. Already under Ottoman rule they were frequently persecuted due to their religion. Ever since Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party came to power in 1968, the Yezidi have become victims of deportations, mass executions and torture. As members of an ethnic and religious minority tens of thousands of them were kept in detention centers, concentration camps or so-called model-villages.
After the collapse of the Saddam regime and the invasion of American troops a gradual resettlement in the hometowns of the Yezidi’s main settlement area of Sinjar started to take place. The increasing terrorism in Mosul has furthermore caused another wave of escape of intellectuals, students to their actual main settlement area.

According to Yezidi theologists, the Yezidi are monotheist. They additionally adore the “Angel Ta’us”, for them he is the leader of the angels, a symbol of benevolence, and is believed to be responsible for the universe. For the Yezidi, divine power is transferable to those who are strong in their belief and who accomplish good deeds, and to prophets. This is why they believe in many “God-equals” (Xudan). The most famous of them are Sheik Adi, Sheik Sin, Shei Schams, Sheik Fakhir-Aldin, Mir Hasin Maman, Nassr Din, and many more.

For further questions you are welcome to contact Dr. Kamal Sido, Head of STP Middle East Department: Tel. +49 (0) 551 499
06-18 or Tilman Zülch, STP General Secretary: Tel. +49 (0) 151 153 09 888.