Yazidis: Tortured, Deprived and Still Forgotten
By: Suzann Abraham
First of all, who are the Yazidis and why are they important?
Yazidis are a group of people, between 70,000 and 500,000, that have been facing ongoing persecution and have been hiding from their oppressors. They occupy a small region on Mt.Sinjar in North-west Iraq.
Their persecution began from a misunderstanding of the origin of their name. The extremist group, ISIS, believed it came from Yazid Ibn Muawiya, an unpopular political figure thousands of years ago. However, modern research proves that the political figure has no connection with the people. Their name came from the Persian word “ized” that translates to angel or deity. The name “Izidis” means “worshippers of God.” Their beliefs consist of various elements from Christianity and Islam.
The ISIS militant group attacked the Mt.Sinjar region and began a genocidal campaign against the Yazidis. They killed thousands of men and abducted an estimate of six thousand women and children. The women and children were either sold as sex slaves or into servitude. In 2015, the region was taken back from ISIS and people have moved back by setting in displacement camps. Although it has been six years, time has failed to heal all of their mental and physical scars. Many are looking for loved ones or mourning the death of others and many are still trying to rebuild their lives.
To help deal with the trauma, many were sent to mental health care facilities. They recorded 635 patients out of which 120 have attempted suicide. Many cases are unreported as people are ashamed to speak up, especially the men. One woman, Delberin Khudeda, spoke of her experience. “My sister Rasha got some form of psychotherapy for a few weeks, but it was not enough — she killed herself at the age of 18. It mostly had to do with the fact that she missed my brother so much; he was kidnapped by IS. But she also did not have any faith in the future as we were living in tents for years. She was crying all the time.” She also added that many of her family members suffered from mental health illnesses ever since 2014.
Twenty one year old Anwar Khdir, committed suicide by hanging himself in his tent at a displacement camp. His mother, four brothers and five sisters struggle to survive at the camp and manage the stress from their past that only seems to build up. Anwar had been the sole breadwinner of his family. “Never ask for the reason of my suicide. Please do not cry, mom,” were his last words.
The increasing rate of poverty and unemployment is the biggest hurdle for people to start rebuilding their lives. Many families do not have enough money for food and the men feel helpless. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is no help at all. Those who need treatment have to travel for long hours to reach the nearest hospital. Unfortunately, some die due to their ailments while others resort to end their misery on their own. Some set themselves on fire, for example. Even if people are able to reach a hospital they face a language barrier as many do not speak Arabic.
As said before, the Sinjar region is held by poverty and unemployment. The restrictions due to COVID affected everything. Those who had jobs are forced to stay home. No one is able to provide for their families. Majority of the people are either farmers or labour workers, whose jobs usually last no longer than a day or two. The farmer’s harvest is not close to yielding any profit. Crops die or rot and merchants are unable to come and purchase them in time. People are unable to travel outside town for work. Before the pandemic, inhabitants had very little income and now they have nothing.
The situation has also caused frustration and immense stress that is added on to their traumatic experiences. There is also a surge in domestic violence cases. Many men have been forced to spend ample time at home that has left them feeling confused, guilty and helpless. They vent anger and aggressive behaviours on their family members who are lost themselves. New patients have appeared suffering from depression, showing symptoms such as suicidal thoughts or attempts.
These are the issues that the Yazidis face daily. They don’t have proper resources, access to healthcare, jobs and have to live with their pain. There is very little done to help them and very few know about them. At a time of despair, they face a harsh reality that shows no hope for the future.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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