Home > Conflict & Security, Middle East, Politics > Violence Stalks Iraq’s Minorities

Violence Stalks Iraq’s Minorities

Mohammed A Salih writes in Asia Times:

The deadly suicide attacks on the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq earlier this month are expected to worsen ethnic and sectarian tensions. The suicide bombings in Kahtaniya and al-Jazeera villages in northern Nineveh province on August 14 left more than 400 dead and at least 200 injured. These were the most lethal attacks since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March, 2003.

The US military says al-Qaeda is attempting to pit local Yazidi Kurds against Muslim Arabs. Yazidis speak of their “pro-Kurdistan tendencies” as the major provocation for the attacks. They fear this will make them targets for more attacks.

“Terrorists will attack every one who is not with them,” Ido Babasheikh, advisor to the Iraqi president on Yazidi affairs told Inter Press Service (IPS). “In terms of Yazidis, since they [al-Qaeda] consider us to be both Kurds and infidels, we are more likely to be a target again.”

Yazidis are followers of an ancient Mesopotamian religion. They worship Malak Taus, or the peacock angel, whom many Muslims and Christians view as Satanic. The vast majority of Yazidis, numbering about half a million, are ethnic Kurds. The Yazidis are spread over several Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq and Syria, and also over the central Asian republics Armenia and Georgia.

Other religious minorities like Christians and Sabean-Mandaens (followers of John the Baptist) have also been attacked by armed groups. Iraq is now a particularly dangerous country for minorities. Unlike major communities, they do not have armed groups to protect them. Babasheikh called on the Kurdish and Iraqi governments as well as US forces to protect them from “terrorists”.

The brutal bombings aroused nationwide sympathy for the Yazidi community. Yazidi leaders called for restraint among their followers. Following the attacks, the Kurdish government declared a day of national mourning in the three neighboring provinces Irbil, Sulaimaniya and Dohuk.

The Yazidi-dominated areas in Nineveh province are highly important because they are part of the “disputed areas” between Kurds and Arabs. A referendum scheduled by the end of this year will give locals a say in whether they want to be a part of the neighboring and autonomous Kurdistan region or stay with the Iraqi government.

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