Being a minority in Iraq is dangerous. And no minority is more dangerous for it than the Yezidis. Their own records tell of 74 genocides. And you probably haven’t heard of the first 73. Hopefully you’ve heard of the latter. It is ongoing now.
Four proud representatives of some of the many minorities in Iraq enter through the door of the rather anonymous meeting room in the big city of Erbil. Their friendly eyes meet ours, and we know that they will be good to have with us for the next two hours. For they have come to share with some of their people’s worst moments.
This is the worst disaster that has ever befallen our people, says Mr. Babasheikh. And we never thought it would come in the technological and democratic age.
His face has taken on a mournful cast as he looks into our eyes. He is a Jesidi, a minority that is now experiencing its worst nightmares. Over 60 percent of his people have been displaced from their areas after Daish (their term for IS) took their bestial war to their areas. They are now refugees in their own country. Stuck together in large camps where, despite the good efforts of many, there is a lack of much.
But the lack of a normalized everyday life is overshadowed by a deep longing for the more than 3,000 who are still in captivity with Daish. His voice is getting weaker and he has a hard time looking us straight in the eye now. It is difficult to talk about the many girls aged 6 to 14 who are now sex slaves or maids. And the boys of the same age who are not only taught a brutal ideology, but also to hate their parents.
The many thousands of dead are even more difficult to talk about. All those who have so far been found in over 30 anonymous mass graves. In such a small minority, this hits hard. There aren’t any families that don’t either have dead people to mourn, or missing people they long to get back.
We swallow more than normal and several of us are brighter in the eyes than we usually are. Because hearing this elderly man talk about their almost indescribable suffering is tough. Degradingly tough at the moment. And we have only heard parts of the latest genocide they are living through. There have been 73 other genocides against their minority through changing regimes, he says.
Over 80 of our students have received top grades despite very difficult conditions, and ten of them have received scholarships in Italy. Can you perhaps help someone with a scholarship in Norway?, Mr. Babasheikh suddenly asks hopefully.
We roll our eyes at this sudden shift in his narrative. Because despite a rather hopeless situation, he is keen to also lift up their students and ask for help. For those who lack much of the most necessary, and where most have greater or lesser trauma, produce good academic results.
He goes on to tell about the girl who sat in the bare makeshift tent in the refugee camp and through a lot of effort got top class results. Now she is on her way to Italy to study medicine. About the five Jesidi women who have won awards all over the world, and not least about Nadia Murad who has become the first Goodwill Ambassador. She, too, a strong Jesidi woman who has gone through the unimaginable. The same as all the women from this proud minority who are now on the front line fighting to free their brothers and sisters. With weapons in hand in the seventy-fourth genocide.
Fortell vår historie om det syttifjerde folkemordet mot vår minoritet. For verden har ikke hørt om de andre syttitre,» avslutter Mr. Babasheikh.
The Shabak people, the Sabian people and the Christian minority also have their stories which are strong and horrific. We steel ourselves to hear yours too.
Please help the Yezidi people by supporting our collection in collaboration with Norwegian People’s Aid: Support the Yezidis in Iraq. All contributions are gratefully received. Because this vulnerable people need it badly.
Post on korpset.human.no on 18 October 2016: Human.no (now removed)
Photo credit: Sean Kjetil Nordbo