With the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize to Yazidi activist Nadia Murad, we have drawn from our archives a story where a Yazidi survivor Dr. Uday Aloka spoke with India Currents staff about his plight in 2014.
California resident Dr. Uday Aloka talked to India Currents staff in 2014 about the human rights violations suffered by his people, the Yazidis, under the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).
ISIS, which has been in the news recently for the medieval beheading of American journalists James Foley and Steven J. Sotloff, has allegedly captured more than 5,000 Yazidi women and girls. These Yazidi women are considered ‘spoils of war’ by the Islamic State, which is rewarding its fighters with Yazidi women as sexual slaves. Many of these women are being forcibly converted to Islam after ‘marriage’ to ISIS fighters.
In August 2014, thousands of Yazidis fled to nearby mountains when their villages in the Sinjar region was attacked by the Islamic State. Dr. Uday Aloka happened to be visiting his sick father in Iraq in a town near Mosul, and recalls the chaotic events of this summer with sorrow and a resolve to help this beleaguered minority group.
This was the 74th recorded genocide targeting the Yazidis.
The Yazidi religion, according to The Encyclopaedia Britannica published in 1986, is “a syncretic combination of Zoroastrian, Manichaean, Jewish, Nestorian Christian and Islamic elements.”
There are a few websites that attest to the link between the Yazidi religion and Hinduism (yeziditruth.org). The Yazidis revere the Peacock angel called Taus Malek who is Murugan or Karthik for the Hindus. The Yazidis believe in Reincarnation and have been condemned as ‘devil worshippers’ by their Islamic neighbors. They believe that their forefathers came from India.
They have appealed for protection from persecution as a religious minority, and many are seeking political asylum outside Iraq. With at least 500 Yazidis dead and 5,000 women abducted since August, this small community, of less than a million strong worldwide, is in imminent danger.
Dr. Uday Aloka recounted the grim statistics of the Yazidis, whose numbers have been dwindling from 22 million in prior centuries to less than 1 million today. Dr. Aloka is concerned that the 74th genocide against Yazidis is here, and it could cause this religious community to be extinct within the next hundred years. ‘These people face genocide,” he states. He frets that the harsh winter in Northern Iraq will cause further casualties among the thousands of displaced Yazidis who have become refugees.
The international community must mobilize to help the Yazidis. Here in the US, several organizations are appealing to the US Congress to allow Yazidis political asylum. Please lend your voice to support members of this minority community who continue to be persecuted for their religious beliefs.
First published in December 2014.