(photo credit: AP)
The majority of the world today welcomes the New Year on 1st January.
The Yazidis welcome theirs on a particular Wednesday of April known as Red Wednesday or “Sere Sal” (translated as “Head of the Year”).
Today is the day.
Who are the Yazidis?
The Yazidis speak predominantly Kurdish and are one of Iraq’s oldest ethnic minorities. They are a historically persecuted religious minority mainly due to their worship of a fallen angel, Melek Tawwus (“Peacock Angel”). His other name is Shaytan, which is Arabic for devil. The importance of Melek Tawwus and his name in Arabic has given the Yazidis the undeserved reputation for being “devil worshippers” or labelled as“infidels” by fundamental muslims, claiming justification in their massacre of them.
The rise of extremism has turned their faith and beliefs to life threatening.
In most recent times, on Aug. 3, 2014, ISIS fighters swept into the Sinjar region of northern Iraq, home to the majority of the world’s Yazidis. They rounded up the Yazidis into three groups: Young boys who were made to fight for IS, older males who were killed if they didn’t convert to Islam, and women and girls sold into slavery. The 400 000 strong community had all been displaced, captured, or killed. According to UN, “no free Yazidis remain in the Sinjar region.”
To date, approximately 3200 Yazidi women remain in captivity, where they face daily rapes, are sold and resold by their captors like livestock across their self proclaimed “caliphate” – sometimes, for a packet of cigarettes. Sickeningly, ISIS even published a price list for Yazidi women where they are openly sold in slave markets located in Mosul, Iraq and al-Raqqa, Syria.
Those with blue and green eyes fetched the highest amount.
We are now in 2017, et the cruelty of ISIS terrorists against the Yazidis, where their women and girls face the most cruel treatment, is continuing, despite their pleas to the world for help.
I’ve met some Yazidi families here on Chios. They all have one thing in common: A long list of dead or missing family members under ISIS control in Iraq or Syria. Their psychological damage is very severe and they remain in camps around Greece, lacking professional support due to the severe lack of resources from the system.
Today, I received a Whatsapp message from one of the Yazidi girls I met and managed to stay in touch. She is currently in a camp in Northern Greece. They are waiting, well for what, I don’t know. She told me it is their New Year today and of course, I wished her happy new year.
I learned through our fragmented English conversation (she picked up due to her spine of steel and quick brains) that traditionally, on this day, they leave coloured eggs outside their homes as they believe it helps God identify them.
“No egg God no find us,” she wrote.
I asked if she and her family managed to find some eggs today.
“No,” she responded. “Hope God see us and our suffering.”
Despite being Atheist, I felt as if someone kicked me in the stomach. Despite centuries of persecution, the Yazidis have never abandoned their faith, testimony to their remarkable sense of identity and strength of character.
I consider myself to be mentally tough, but it is hard to look at the world properly again when you hear with your own ears how girls as young as 12 years old have been repeatedly raped over 100 times over the course of months.
Us, women face much daily discrimination and we constantly fight for our rights to our body, for equal pay etc – which, don’t get me wrong, are rightly justified – but I can only imagine how our struggles must be laughable to the Yazidi women, who are exposed to systematic sexual assaults and persecution.
A genocide against women.
In this genocide, we can never have enough women standing with our Muslim sisters being tortured and exterminated by Islamic terrorists, and in other parts of the world, not being able to receive proper access to education, female health or even leave the house without the permission of a man. If only when we feel just as motivated to protest about the enslavement, rape, and torture of them, as much as about how much we are paid at our work place.
Let our actions remind women in the Middle East that we take their plight to heart.
In the words of Audre Lorde, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
Remember that and speak out loud for them the next time you feel the need to protest. Because we should not let the world turn a blind eye and say “we didn’t know.”
Because really, no woman is totally free UNTIL all women are free.