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Book reprint highlights revival of interest in Yezidis in Sweden

Friday, 03 April 2015

Stockholm, Sweden – Swedish writer Fredrik Ekman is gratified to see a book he co-wrote about the Yezidis reprinted after a decade, signifying renewed interest about the religiouis minority that is suffering under atrocities by ISIS in Iraq.

“It’s a different feeling to see the book re-published at a time when the Yezidi Kurds are facing tremendous adversity in Iraq,” Ekman said in an interview. “Yezidis have faced both persecution and genocide.”

Ekman co-authored Yezidier: En reseessä (Yezidis: a travel essay) with artist Magnus Bartas a decade ago. It was reprinted in December 2014 as thousands of Yezidis were on the run from a genocidal campaign carried out by ISIS in northern Iraq.

The authors note that, despite repeated and systematic attempts to annihilate or assimilate the Yezidis, they have been able to remain faithful to their ancestors and keep their faith entirely intact. 

In 2003-4, Bartas and Ekman visited the Kurdistan Region and Armenia, where most Yezidis have lived for centuries. The authors also used a range of written sources to document the Yezidis’  harsh journey throughout history.

In the book, they quote local Yezidis as saying that their peaceful religion has survived because they do not proselytize or easily accept converts.

“Not everyone could enter the Yezidi garden. You had to knock on the door of the garden in order to be let in. This is why the garden has remained clean and pure,” the authors quote a local Yezidi as saying.

Sweden hosts one of the largest immigrant Kurdish communities in Europe, contributing to interest in all things Kurd. But curiousity about the Yezidis predates immigration.

In the 19th century, Swedish missionaries who visited Mesopotamia mentioned the Yezidis in their journals and publications. A number of Swedish articles also were published in the 1950s about Yezidis in the Caucasus and the hardships they endured at the hands of powerful tribes.

The newly reprinted book also discusses ancient Yezidi customs and philosophy. It notes that the Yezidis often tend to build families within their own communities. 

“The Yezidis have been forced to leave their lands and convert to Islam. They have faced beheadings and stoning. Their women have been exposed to sexual violence and are sold as sex slaves. These are only repetitions of the same tragic history they endured in 1415 and 1892,” the authors said in written remarks.

Throughout the decades Iraq’s estimated 600,000 Yezidis have been mistakenly persecuted as “devil worshippers” for their unorthodox religious beliefs, never sitting comfortably inside a country where a decade ago they were called Arabs, and now are considered Kurds.

 Under Saddam Hussein’s 23-year-rule the Yezidis were sometimes regarded as Arabs in order to tilt the balance in Kurdish regions where they live toward Arab control. That designation saved them from Saddam’s genocidal Anfal campaign against the Kurds.

Yezidis in Iraq have been especially targeted by ISIS, which considers them to be pagans. Following an attack on the Yezidi town of Shingal in August,  ISIS fighters embarked on a frenzy of murder, rape, looting and abduction of Yezidi girls and women.

Vian Dakhil, an Erbil-based Kurdish Yezidi politician, recently urged the UN Security Council to better help Kurdish officials and others protect minority religious groups such as the Yezidis.

“We are slaughtered, we are killed, our women are being raped, our girls are being sold, our children are taken to places … we are bought and sold like goods in the market,” Dakhil, an Iraqi parliamentarian, told the UN’s top body last Friday.

Some 420,000 Yezidis have been displaced in northern Iraq’s self-governing Kurdistan Region, she said, while thousands more were scattered across Syria and Turkey by an ISIS blitzkrieg advance into Iraq last summer. Some 3,000 girls are traded in markets for $18 each.

Source: Rudaw

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