Author: Vasiliki (page 1 of 3)

Competition results

And the winning entries are:

First place– Prison Calling by Julie Bushell

Runners up, in no particular order: 

The Boy Who Fell Down by Helen Johnson

Rainbow Nation by Gillian Brown

Congratulations Julie, Gillian and Helen. 

2017 competition shortlist

Super stories have been entered this year and I’m pleased to announce the shortlisted entries.

In no particular order, these are:

The boy who fell down- Helen Johnson

A stolen day in Paris- Hope Silver

Prison calling- Julie Bushell

Breaking the Mould- Siobhan Fuller

To the top of the mountain, always the top- Tabitha Bast

Small steps- Vanessa Horn

Only time will tell- James H Jones

Rainbow nation- Gillian Brown

The view from the trees- Rosemary Goodacre

 

Lies, lies and more lies…

Recently the Henry Jackson Society has seen fit to publish a report claiming that foreign fighters joining the YPG/J have actually joined the PKK.  My blood has been boiling ever since. because of the amount of inaccuracies it contained. 

I wrote to the society pointing out the errors they had made with regards to my son Kosta. They never had the decency to respond. The sad thing is that they are supposedly a think tank that influences government policy If they have made so many errors with regards to my son what other ones are there and how far can they actually be trusted? I’d like to think that the government has more sense than to believe anything that comes out of this society however my confidence is zero. Wasn’t the pretext for the war with Iraq based on a dissertation? Just goes to show, huh? It appears that this society is currently under investigation by the charity commission and has no transparency as to funding. Makes you think…

This is exactly how fake news is propagated.

Here is what they said about Kosta. (The full report is available here: http://henryjacksonsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/3053-PYD-Foreign-Fighter-Project-1.pdf)

KONSTANDINOS ERIK SCURFIELD
Codename: Heval Kemal
Date of birth: 22 September 1989
Date joined YPG: December 2014
Date of death: 2 March 2015
Age: 25
Sex: Male
Place of origin: Barnsley, Britain
Occupation: Military
Kurdish descent: No
Military background: Yes
Prior militant ties: None known
Konstandinos Scurfield, often known as “Kosta”, had been artistically inclined in high school, and expressed a desire to be an actor.  At 20 years old, he changed direction and volunteered for national service in Greece – something made  possible by his Greek background.  Scurfield served six months, mostly consisting of sentry duty. After returning to the UK, he joined the Royal Marines and excelled as a battlefield medic. Scurfield’s mother says her son told her on Christmas Day 2013 that he was going to “go to Syria and help” because “the Kurds are dying and our government’s doing nothing”.  Scurfield resigned from the British military in September 2014, got in contact with a YPG  recruiter through the Facebook page for the Lions of Rojava unit, flew to northern Iraq, where the PKK retains its  headquarters in the Qandil Mountains, and was soon in battle in Sinjar. According to a man known as Macer Gifford, a British YPG operative (profiled in Section 3.3), Scurfield “had no time for people who didn’t believe in the cause”, and became agitated about foreign fighters who came to Syria and did not heed the instructions of the YPG. Scurfield was killed in an IS ambush near Tel Hamis, a key town from which the YPG had expelled IS on 27 February 2015. Pro-PYD/YPG activists in Britain relayed confirmation from Jordan Matson (profiled in THE FORGOTTEN FOREIGN FIGHTERS: THE PKK IN SYRIA

Here is my response. 

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to you with grave concerns about a recent report posted on your website titled: ‘The Forgotten Foreign Fighters: The PKK in Syria’, published on your website on the 18th of August.

In this report there is a profile of my deceased son Erik K Scurfield. I am sorry to have to inform you there appears to be an absence of academic rigor in the research done by the author, leading to errors that can only highlight a lack of professionalism in your Society.

  1. The author states that Kosta left the British military September. This is an error. He actually left the British military quite a bit after that. A bit of real research will soon establish exactly when.
  2. The author states that Kosta landed in Sulaymaniya airport and uses this to make a massive, unevidenced inference that he must therefore have joined the proscribed terrorist organisation PKK. The author seems to have based this on the fact that Sulaymaniya airport is in ‘close’ proximity to the Qandil mountains which is where the PKK is based. If one is to accept this argument (that proximity to a place means he must have therefore joined the faction that is based there), then it stands to reason that he joined the Kurdish PUK based in Sulaymaniya, or the KRG Peshmerga based in Erbil which is closer to Sulaymaniya than the Qandil mountains. Since this is very weak argument based on the sort of illogical leap that one wouldn’t even expect to find in GCSE essay, I am surprised to find that a so-called reputable think tank could countenance it. It is quite clear to even the meanest intelligence that the Qandil mountains are over 100kms away from Sulaymaniya and as this map  of ISIS positions shows, in 2014 when Kosta joined the YPG, travelling through Northern Kurdistan was likely the only safe, and prudent, way into Northern Syria. It is not evidence of an ideological and military link to the PKK.
  3. The author of this report then also infers that the use of the word ‘cause’ that Kosta allegedly used, indicates a link to the PKK. I’d like to point out that 1) there is no evidence that my son used this word at all, 2) that it is actually third hand information – (someone said that someone said that someone said) and that a sound academic researcher should, at the very least, have tried to contact the original speaker (Macer Gifford) in order to ascertain the truth behind the statement. Reading the report as written by Mr Matt Blake, (cited by the author in the bibliography), will soon show that the ‘cause’ referred to by Macer Gifford is the fight against ISIS terrorism. Even without that, how can any report purport to be serious when it relies on hearsay? Finally, there is clear evidence, spoken by my son, recorded in his own voice and available widely in the public domain that his sole motivation for going out to Syria was to fight ISIS. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAKP2EAMA-g where it is clear he was joining to fight ISIS. It would take some extreme mental gymnastics to allege otherwise.

The author states that the PKK and the YPG are the same organisation. He doesn’t pose this as a theory and provide arguments, which would be a sounder academic approach, instead he states it as if it is a fact.

I would like to point out that currently British law does not support this. Under the current status quo, the PKK is proscribed and the YPG is not. These two organisations have different names, exist in different countries and are fighting different battles. The YPG itself, and its political arm the PYD, clearly state that they are not part of the PKK and have distanced themselves from it in the past.

YPJ fighters. (Photo taken from http://kurdishquestion.com/article/3966-modern-feminism-why-we-should-learn-from-kurdish-women)

My son was very careful, researched the YPG thoroughly, and was actually thoroughly investigated, in turn, by the British military and the Scottish anti-terror police before he went to Syria. To claim that my son joined the PKK is to impugn not only his memory but also the investigative abilities of both these organisations. Stating that something is a fact does not make it so, as so many politicians have recently found to their dismay, however let’s imagine, for a moment, that this is correct and that the two organsiations are one and the same. Given the sacrifices, the lives lost, the ground support that the YPG have given to the coalition and the wonderful progress made by the YPG in the fight against the terrorist caliphate cult of ISIS, it would seem to indicate a pretty good case for the de-listing of the PKK. Instead the author suggests the criminalisation of the young people who have gone over there to support democratic values, gender equality and the right of human beings to live free of oppression.

It disturbs me that a reputable organisation should endorse a report that contains errors, misdirection, and badly evidenced and argued points, and as a result is contributing to the spread of fake news. I am further disappointed that the researcher seems to have forgotten a basic tenet of research and that is the importance of primary source material.  He has made no attempt to contact any of the relatives of the deceased men he mentions, or speak to the people he accuses to get a balanced, unbiased viewpoint, and seems to have indulged in a sort of spurious cut and paste academia that is shameful. What I also find nauseating and rather disgusting is the author has put these fighters and, more importantly, their families at risk from ISIS. It is true that ISIS could do its own internet research and find out the information, but the author has provided a handy directory of names and other information that makes it all just that bit easier for them.

I look forward to hearing from you soon about the action you’re proposing to take to amend the errors and misrepresentations in the section about my son. If you choose to leave this factually erroneous report on your website then please respect my right to reply and post this letter- in its entirety, with no amendments, where it can be seen in conjunction with the report.

An apology would also be nice.

Yours faithfully,

Vasiliki Scurfield.

Since they haven’t even had the decency to respond…

Criminalising Kurdish Communities

On the 30th August Scottish police raided the homes of innocent Kurdish civilians. This is part of a growing tendency of Britain to criminalise these people and their supporters.

The local Kurdish Community penned the following letter:

As of Wednesday 30th August 2017, the police has carried out raids to the homes of various Kurdish community members. Later, a forced entry was used to raid the Kurdish community centre in Edinburgh.

Kurdish community centre is a place where the Kurdish community gather to share their language, culture and traditions. We hold Kurdish language classes, folklore dance classes and English language classes. Our community refer to the centre as our “common home”. It is where we can peacefully and freely embrace our identity and pass our culture onto our children. Having come to Scotland as Kurdish refugees many years ago, we have now integrated into the Scottish society here. Our children are growing up half Kurdish, half Scottish and they are, just like all other youth in Scotland, the future of this country. We have formed many relationships with communities, organisations and charities. We have been welcomed here with positive attitudes and to this day both the Scottish government and the people of Scotland have made us feel at home. We left difficult days of persecution and discrimination back home and came to Scotland with a vision of peace, unity and hope.

However – since the Turkish Consulate has been established in Edinburgh, they have put in every effort and energy to intimidate our community by criminalising both us and our centre. This is the second time we are being labelled, targeted and questioned by the police. We therefore believe the police are under the pressure and influence of the Turkish consulate who are bringing the intimidation tactics of the Turkish Government to Scotland.This is an open form of racism. It is against our most basic human rights. We are a migrant community

With Scotland moving closer to independence why can they not support the same for the Kurdish people?

and have already suffered many years of injustice.

We no longer want to face policies of denial and discrimination. Our community are now very disheartened but also very determined to stand firm against this undeserved treatment.
Kurdish community centre

The thing that breaks my heart about all this is that the Scottish people have experienced years of oppression and they should know what it feels like. Why aren’t they standing up for the Kurdish minorities and why aren’t they standing up against the fascism of the Turkish State? If you want to show support for Kurdish people please tweet to your MPs, write to the Scottish Parliament, and you can also join the Kurdish Solidarity Campaign.

Yezidi Genocide- one man’s personal account

Amy L Beam works with Yezidi refugees and survivors in Iraq and has agreed to share a chapter from her forthcoming book: “The Last Yezidi Genocide”

NB: This was first published on Amy’s facebook page, link at bottom of the article.

For the excerpt please continue reading:

Kocho Manager Describes August 15, 2014, Daesh Executions Were Watched from the Sky
by Dr. Amy L. Beam, as told to her by Nayef Jaso Qassim, October 26, 2015

The flat plains of Nineveh, where Yezidis live, is the bread basket of Iraq. In the center is Mount Shengal, surrounded on all sides by 100 kilometers of wide open, rich agricultural land and many small villages. (Sinjar is the Arabic name and Shengal is the Kurdish name.) There are no trees for shade. The only canopy is the expansive blue sky. We grow the barley, oats, and wheat for flour for the entire country of Iraq. We are mostly farmers and shepherds with large herds of sheep. Some men take jobs in the cities of Duhok and Erbil.

Kocho, Shingal, Iraq, site of August 15, 2014, massacre and kidnapping of the entire town of Ezidis by Islamic State terrorists.

August in Iraq is the dry season. The wheat and barley crops have been harvested and trucked to Erbil silos. Temperatures soar to a stifling 45C. The green grasses die and turn brown. The ground hardens and cracks from drought. A grayish-brown fog of dust hangs in the atmosphere like a heavy blanket, lowering visibility and causing people chronic breathing problems.

I am the manager of Kocho village. My name is Nayef Jaso Qassim. I was born in 1958, one year after Kocho was founded by my father, the leader of the Al-Mandkany clan. People tell me I look younger, but after what I have seen in my lifetime, I feel as old as the desecrated earth of Shengal itself.

I have witnessed the most treacherous betrayal that I could not have imagined was possible. Even though the Yezidis have recorded 73 genocidal attacks upon our people, the 74th was unlike all others. It destroyed the lives and properties of over 400,000 Yezidis. It destroyed our ancestral homeland. Shengal is finished.

Four of my sons were killed. I lost 71 relatives in Kocho, all sharing my family name of Qassim. They are either dead or missing. Twelve of them had married into our family. Only two of the kidnapped women on my list have escaped. One is the wife of my dead son.

Now my mission is to tell the world the truth about the attacks on Shengal in August 2014. I defy any individual or government or Daesh terrorist [Islamic State jihadists] to silence me, because truth is on my side. I will never stop telling what happened. Only God himself can silence me.

Yezidis share many customs with the Kurds and the Arabs, including managing our villages under the tribal or clan system. We do not elect mayors. The leader or manager of the village is a senior man from the clan. As the town manager, I am given great respect by the town’s people who are all my cousins to one degree or another.

I make decisions that affect the well-being of the entire town of 1,735 people. Being manager carries great responsibility to protect and provide for my people. A leader must also take counsel from his advisors. So I am often in council meetings with the eldest men in Kocho, the fathers of each family. On important matters I must consult with the town’s people to reach consensus and have their support. We have a big hall for these gatherings.

On July 28, 2014, my wife and I flew to Istanbul. My elder brother, Ahmed Jaso Qassim, who is actually the head of our Al Mandkany clan which includes Kocho and four other villages, returned on July 27 from his work in Duhok to manage Kocho in my absence. His first wife and their house is also in Kocho.

We Yezidis have our own festivals, separate in custom and dates from the Kurds and Arabs around us. One of our annual events is the feast after the forty hottest days in the year. It is celebrated after the crop is harvested.

On August 2, one day before the Islamic State terrorists attacked Shengal, my brother Ahmed Jaso hosted a lavish luncheon at his house for 50 guests. It included 22 Arab neighbors of whom 15 were managers of the surrounding Arab villages and one Kurdish village. Ahmed sacrificed a sheep for this special occasion. There was every kind of special food prepared.

Women and children were not present at this special luncheon. All the village managers were friends and equals. This was a luncheon for Ahmed’s associates and neighbors to share in the Yezidis’ harvest. It was like The Last Supper, but instead of there being only one Judas who betrayed Jesus, 13 out of the 15 Arab village managers betrayed my brother and the entire Al-Mandkandy clan less than 15 hours after smiling in his face, dining at his table, and eating his sacrificial sheep.

Clan leaders of neighboring Arab villages who had lunch with Ahmed Jaso August 2, 2014: Nofel

List of Arab mayors (mukhtars) and one Kurdish mayor who were lunch guests of Ahmed Jaso, August 2, 2014, Kocho, the day before they joined ISIS in attacking Shingal. Names of two Arabs who did not betray their Yezidi neighbors are crossed out. The list was written by Nayef Jaso Qassim, mukhtar of Kocho. Five people with lines next to them returned August 14 to meet with Ahmed Jaso in Kocho, the day before the Kocho massacre.

 

1. Nofel
2. Khalef
3. Jarallah
4. Abdullmajud
5. Khaton
6. Khalal
7. Tarik
8. Muhammedradife
9. Muhammed Imad
10. Mallik Al Nuri
11. Muhammed Abaz
12. Zed
13. Farhan Jarallah
14. Jasim

Not only were my brother Ahmed and I friends with the managers of the surrounding Arab villages, but our wives and children also were friends. We danced at each other’s weddings and visited in one another’s homes. Our children played together. We grew up together. We did business together. I regularly traveled together to Baghdad and Mosul with the Arab village managers for meetings with the government.

Our fathers’ friendship goes back to 1948. The Yezidis used to live with Arabs in Kinissee which is only 8 kilometers to the east of Kocho on Blaj Road. There were never any problems between the Yezidis and Arabs in Kinissee. In 1956, Yezidis built Kocho and they all moved out of Kinissee. Kocho is surrounded by 13 Arab villages and one Kurdish village.

Since 1957, when Kocho was founded, our fathers, and then we, have been friends with our Arab neighbors with not one problem between us. Our problems started only when Daesh came. We call the Islamic State “Daesh”.

When Shengal was attacked on August 3, 2014, my wife and I took the next plane from Istanbul back to Erbil. While we were flying home, some people from Kocho tried to get away in their cars. Daesh captured them and massacred a total of 150 people in three different locations. The others turned back.

I wanted to drive immediately from the airport to Kocho, but my brother, Ahmed Jaso, told me on the phone to stay in Duhok. It was already too late to return. Peshmerga had left Kocho and it was now surrounded by Daesh. Daesh was everywhere in control of Shengal cities and villages. Over fifty thousand Yezidis were trapped on Mount Shengal without enough water or food.

The road from Sunoni, on the north of the mountain, across the flat open plain to Kurdistan, was jammed with cars and trucks packed with families fleeing to safety. The Peshmerga pickup trucks were leading, with Yezidis following close behind. Four-wheel trucks were passing on the side of the road over the hard ground, over-taking the slow traffic and turning the two-lane country road into a four-lane one-way road.

It would be impossible to drive against the flow of traffic that inched northward at only a few kilometers per hour. Every civilian had to pass through several checkpoints before entering the safety of Kurdistan which has protected borders in northern Iraq.
So I stayed here in Duhok, Kurdistan, from where I was in constant telephone contact with my brother, Ahmed Jaso, trapped in Kocho.

We did not know Abu Hamza, the Daesh leader who came to meet with Ahmed Jaso on August 5, but he came with my Arab friend Khalef Al Ayid and one other man. Khalef Al Ayid is the manager of Pisqi Jemali village which is 3 kilometers east of Kocho. Abu Hamza is from Khaider city, south of Mosul. They drank tea together in the meeting hall next to Ahmed’s house.

Abu Hamza demanded we convert to Islam and gave us three days to decide. We tried to get outside help to rescue the village. We called the Arab managers who had been Ahmed’s luncheon guests on August 2, and asked them to help us by going to talk to the Daesh leader in Mosul. I do not know the name of this bigger Daesh leader, but his wife’s father is named Salam Mala Allo.

The Arab managers from our neighboring villages, whom we asked for help, talked to the brother of the Daesh leader in Mosul. They promised to do something to help us, but no help arrived. We remained besieged.

On August 8, Abu Hamza returned pretending to help us. Ahmed Jaso and the men of Kocho listened to what Abu Hamza had to say. The meeting hall was full. Hamza told us we did not have to convert to Islam after all. He told us to go about our normal lives, but we did not believe him. We knew they were Daesh.

For twelve days my brother and I and all the people of Kocho were desperately phoning people everywhere in Iraq and in the world asking to be rescued. My friends who were interpreters with the U.S. Army took our message to Congress and the government in Washington, D.C. and to Europe. We called members of the E.U. parliament. Yezidis living in Europe went to the European Court in Brussels and pleaded for help for Yezidis, especially to rescue Kocho. We contacted every embassy. There were even demonstrations in Brussels in front of the European Court and in Hannover, Germany.

We called government leaders and military commanders in Kurdistan and Iraq and begged to be rescued, but the Iraqi government gave us no response and did not care. We were racing for time. We never rested.

So I sent my message to the Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani, the most respected religious leader in Iraq. Only a few days earlier, on August 1, six grand ayatollahs had publicly announced their support to Ayatollah Sistini because Sistini was calling for a democratic Iraq in which each person could vote. Sistini called for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down or be voted out of office.

Sistini sent my message to Prime Minister Maliki: “Kocho needs to be rescued.”

The next day the Secretary to the Ministry of Iraq, close to Maliki, called me from his phone, 07802200011, and asked me if I was Nayef Jaso, the manager of Kocho. I said, “Yes.” We talked.

After our talk, the Secretary of the Ministry of Iraq signed an order to rescue Kocho. This order was sent to the operations control room for the Iraqi Army in Baghdad. This happened sometime between August 8 and 12. My sources told me that Americans were in the control room along with Iraqis.

I will never trust Americans again.

I had connections within the PDK political party. I sent them the same message, “Kocho needs to be rescued.” I gave them a plan. They said they would send it to the military operations room in Erbil, capital of Kurdistan. There were Kurds, Arabs, and Americans in that control room. I did not see the Americans in the operations room in Erbil with my own eyes, because I was in Duhok, but my intermediary swears that American military personnel were there.

I asked for 14 planes to include ten helicopters, two Apache attack helicopters, and two military fighter jets such as F-16s. The helicopters were to be used to evacuate the people of Kocho to Mount Shengal. The Apaches and the F-16s were to protect the helicopters during their operation. I said, “I have 200 Yezidi men of my own forces on the ground in Kocho. They will protect the helicopters when they land.”

We got no sure reply to our request to be rescued.

On August 12, I called my brother Ahmed in Kocho and told him, “It’s a plan. I do not know what will happen in the future, but I am sure it is a plan. Take whatever steps you can to save yourselves. No one is coming to your rescue.”

On August 13, Daesh returned and brought some rice and food to the village. They also brought more guards to surround the village night and day. Only 3% were foreign. Only 7% were from other areas of Iraq. Ninety percent came from the Arab villages in Shengal. They were our neighbors.

The operations room said to my intermediary contact that they were watching Kocho intensively. They promised if more than two cars go to Kocho, they would bomb the cars.

I told my brother on the phone, “On August 15, Daesh will give you their decision. Either you can change your religion or they will kill everyone or you can escape to the mountain.” Daesh did not say this, but I understood.

On August 14, Ahmed hosted a luncheon meeting with five of the 15 Arab managers from surrounding villages in an effort to avert an attack. They were Nofel, Khaton, Tarik, Jarella, and Farhan Jarella. These were the same friends who had come for lunch on August 2. Abu Hamza attended, too.

On August 15, at 9 AM many cars entered Kocho from three available directions. Cars came from Tal Afar to the north, heading south on Blaj Road. Others came from Blaj village southeast of Kocho, heading north. Others came from Baaj, southwest of Kocho. They had loudspeakers on their cars and announced they would take everyone to the mountain. It was very hot that morning, so they brought ice and distributed it. They told everyone to bring their gold and cars and report to the school which is on the northeast corner of Kocho.

From 9 AM planes were flying overhead. The operations room in Baghdad watched and did nothing even though there were lines of cars and pickups surrounding and entering into Kocho.

They took the women and children to the second floor of the school. The world knows by now that they were all kidnapped and the women and girls were beaten, raped, and used as sex slaves. Some of them have escaped, but nearly 3,000 Yezidis are still being held captive.

Daesh kept the men and adolescent boys on the ground floor of the school. They checked the hair under the arms of some of the boys to determine age. Young boys went with their mothers.
Abu Hamza asked Ahmed one last time, “Do you want to change your religion?” My brother told everyone, “You are free to choose.”

No one agreed to change religion except for one family that was not from Kocho. They were allowed to leave. Daesh said to the others, “We know you are not going to convert to Islam.”

Until they collected the mobile phones, I was always in touch with my son, Mufit Nayef Jaso, who was only 20. He was the last one to have his phone taken, because he was hiding it in his pocket with a wire in his ear. He was in constant communication with me. He was giving me the details of what was going on in the school. How they separated the men from the women and children. How they collected everyone’s gold and cash and took their ID cards (hawea).

When they started taking the men out of the school and driving them away, my son told me they were shooting everyone. I told my son, “They will kill you.” Then they took his phone.

I was in Duhok meeting with a man named Khairi Hamoka. He was sitting right next to me. He was talking on the phone to the operations room in Erbil. As my son told me what was happening, I was telling Khairi, and Khairi was telling the operations room. They knew everything that was happening in real time. The operations room said they were watching from the planes overhead.

Khairi relayed the question from the operations room to me, “What will Daesh do?”

I answered, “They will kill everyone.” I told them, “Bomb everyone, the women, the children, the men.”

The man from the operations room asked, “You gave us orders to bomb and kill everyone in Kocho? What is your relationship to them?”

I said, “They are my family, my children, my relatives. I will write a report and put my fingerprints on it that I gave the orders to bomb.”

The operations room said, “Human rights will not allow us to do that.”

So they watched from their planes and never did anything to stop the executions that went on for an hour from 11AM until about noon. Two planes flew overhead watching until late afternoon. Inside my head, I was screaming for help. I felt helpless. No! No! No! Please stop them! Please bomb them! Where was God?

When they took my son’s phone, I called my Arab friend who lives in Pisqi Junoovi, 2 kilometers from Kocho. I told him to go see and listen for sounds of shooting. My friend called me back and began to cry on the phone and said, “Yes, you are right. They are killing them. I see one person running away. He is coming toward Pisqi Junoovi.”

I asked my friend to care for him. When he arrived, my friend called me again and let me speak with him. He was Alias Salih Qassim, the father of Basman who is missing and presumed dead. Alias was shot in the knee. Alias told me they were shooting everyone. I told him to take care and promised we will try to get you and take you to the mountain.

This information was passed immediately by Khairi Hamoka to the operations room in Erbil.

Daesh took the men in their own cars and pickup trucks parked at the school to four locations at the edges of Kocho. The first location was to the water storage pool on the side of the perimeter dirt road at the edge of southeast Kocho. The first group of men and boys was shot in the back of the head at the edge of the pool. This is the group Alias was in. He ran directly east to escape.
The second group was in the same location, but Daesh made them get into the empty pool where they were executed.

The third and fourth groups were executed about 300 meters away from the first group on the southeast corner of Kocho, next to the perimeter dirt road where it turns to the west and wraps around the village.

The fifth group they took to a farm one kilometer north of Kocho. [According to a survivor, this was actually the fourth group to leave the school, but it may have taken longer to get there or shoot them because Daesh made a video first.] They put about 50 men into the empty pool and shot them. Three men escaped with multiple bullet wounds.

The sixth group was executed on the southwest corner of Kocho.

Diler Havind (interpreter), Amy L Beam, Nayyef Jaso

During the executions, the men in the cars saw others who were dead or being shot and they jumped from the cars and the back of the pickup trucks in an attempt to escape. On the northwest perimeter of the town, twelve men got shot and killed while running away.

Later, Daesh brought other kidnapped Yezidis to live in Kocho. They are witnesses to the locations of the four execution sites and the twelve bodies of men who jumped from the trucks.

Kocho had a population of 453 males aged 15 years and older. Of these, 19 men and teenagers escaped the execution lines with bullet wounds. These men have identified 84 people who were killed next to them.

There are another 350 men who are considered missing because no witness has identified them as killed. This includes my brother, Ahmed Jaso Qassim, leader of our clan. No one has heard from any of these 350 men since the attack of August 15, 2014. We will not have closure until we can enter Kocho, uncover the mass graves, and perform DNA testing.

Four months after the attack, in December 2014, I visited the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. It’s a town, not a building. It is rumored they have 5,000 American soldiers there. We argued for two hours. I made him listen. The U.S. government cannot claim that it does not know what happened in Kocho.

I am sure if I live long enough, I will see the videos, taken from the planes, of the men and boys being executed in Kocho. If we do not have weapons, our children will fight with pens.

No one has seen me shed a tear, because my life’s mission now is to tell the world the truth about Kocho. The U.S. Embassy offered me a visa, but I turned it down. I will stay right here in Iraq.

Nayef Jaso Qassim
manager of Kocho
October 26, 2015
Duhok, Kurdistan, Iraq
interviewed by Amy L Beam
copyright 2017 by Amy L Beam; chapter from forthcoming book “The Last Yezidi Genocide”

DONATE to help Yezidi survivors get their Iraqi IDs and passports atamybeam.info/donate_yezidis.htm

 

The Problem of Syria

Thank you to my blog guest Jack Ar who provided this post.


-Russia talks about elections in Syria while Russians themselves don’t have fair elections.
– Saudi Arabia and Qatar are talking about democracy in Syria and they don’t have basic elements of democracy in their own kingdoms.
– Turkey is talking about protecting Syrian civilians from Assad regime. simultaneously, Turkey is slaughtering and massacring Kurds in south east of Turkey.
– America is too busy with the next presidential elections and it can’t deal with the mess it created in the middle east. They gave millions in cash and weapons to some factions in Syria and these weapons ended up in ISIS hands.
– Iran, Lebanese Hezbullah and Iraqi militants don’t give a damn about all the above mentioned ones. They keep sending their fighters to Syria to support Assad regime.
– Kurds are very busy now consolidating the territory they control in Northern Syria and are heading towards self-rule. They are fighting on both the political and military fronts.
– Syrian Civilians are the only losers of this political bargain.
 YPG

Learning about the Yezidi faith

 

Many thanks to A Burjus for answering my questions and being prepared to share his personal view of his religion with me.  In an effort to retain his voice I have largely posted his replies unadulterated.

Disclaimer: Please understand that this blog interview is a very subjective, personal view of the Ezidi faith and does not claim to be an exhaustive, academic account. Neither does it claim to represent the views of all Ezidi people.
Q: Welcome and many thanks for agreeing to share your religion with us. How do you like to be called? I’ve seen your religion written Yezidi, or Ezidi- what do you like it to be called? How did your religion come about?
 
A:
Before I answer your question, I would like to mention that there is very little true information about the religion because Ezidis have faced 74 genocides and hundreds of ethnic cleansings in their history. In addition, the Ezidi were not permitted to write about their religion in Iraq and Syria, where the majority of Ezidis are living, until 2003. In addition, Ezidi people were forced to live in villages and rural area where very little or no education was available. As a result, the Ezidi couldn’t write information about their religion, traditions and so on during the computer or electronic era. At the same time, many Muslim writers especially Iraqi-Arabs have written much incorrect information about Ezidis and their religion and until now there are hundreds of books and electronic pages filled with wrong information about Ezidis and their religion.
The correct name is Ezidi ( Ezi = God in our language) and the whole word means ‘God followers’, but, Yazidi or Yezidi is also true and is used more than Ezidi in the press and media. Quote: (Since their founding many thousands of years ago in India, these people have always been known as the Yezidis or Yazidis. According to Eszter Spat in The Yezidis, the name is derived from ez Xwede dam, meaning “I was created by God.” Some Yezidis maintain that it translates as “Followers of the true path.” The term Yezidi or Yazidi is also very close to the Persion/Zoroastrian word Yazdan, meaning “God“, and Yazata, meaning “divine” or “angelic being“.
For this reason some scholars have theorized a Persian origin for the Yezidis. Other scholars have associated the name Yazidi with Yazid bin Muawiyah, a Moslem Caliph of the early Umayyad Dynasty. According to the current Yezidi belief, however, the Yazidi religion has nothing at all to do with Yazidi bin Muawiyah, the Amoy leader and we believe that the Caliph Yazid was a Moslem ruler who eventually became disenchanted with his religion and converted to Yezidism). Source http://www.yeziditruth.org/the_yezidis
Q: I’ve heard that it is linked to Zoroastrianism. Is this true? Can you give me a brief history?
A: We believe and also many historic researchers believe that Yazidism is the first and very ancient religion on the earth. This means Yazidism is even older than Zoroastrianism. Yazidism and Zoroastrianism have many common links as both sanctify the four elements which are water, soil, wind and fire.
Q: What are the main ideas in your religion? Who do you worship?
A: We believe in One God and 7 angels. We call the head of the Angels Taws Malak or Peacock Angel.  Many people believe that the Yazidi worship the Peacock Angel without God!!! And they thought that Peacock Angel is the devil! That’s why they called us Devil Worshippers. Please read in this website more about peacock angel http://www.yeziditruth.org/the_peacock_angel
Q: What are the main festivals?
A: The Yezidi religious year includes four main holy festivals: The New Year, The Feast of Sacrifice, The Feast of Seven Days, Sept 23-30, The first Friday of December feast following three days of fasting.
Q: What is the role of women – are they considered equal? Do they have any religious roles?
A: Women and men are equal in Yezidism…They have the same religious role as men.
Q: What religious artifacts do you like to have in your homes?
A:  We have special shape of temple for all our religious places and I would like to have this artifact in my home…If you googled Lalish Yazidi temple you will see the shape
Q: Do you have any holy texts/ books and what are they called?

A: Our religious texts are memorised or save by heart by special religious groups and they transfer from one person to another(like school). This happens because in our history we believe that the enemy burned all our text and books and the only way to save the religious text was by memorizing by group of special people. We say that we have 2 books but we don’t have them in our hand and we don’t know what they contain!!! Here is some information about those books http://www.yeziditruth.org/yezidi_scriptures
Q: I’ve heard that your religion is very much supportive of wildlife and nature? Is this true and where does it come from? What is the relationship between Yezidism and nature?
A: Yezidism is very supportive to nature. We believe that the all universe and all organisms are made from nature and then we sanctify four natural elements, water, soil, wind and fire. In addition, we sanctify the sun and the moon too because we believe that they are the only source of the energy that the universe and organisms rely on. Also we see the greatness of God from the sun and the natural elements as we say if you think God is not found then think about the power of sun and the nature and you will see the God. I recommend you to read this http://www.yeziditruth.org/yezidi_religious_tradition  But even in this website there’s some incorrect information so please be aware…
Q: Thank you. That is a lot of very interesting information. I have learnt a lot more about the Ezidi faith. Just a few more queries. The special people who memorise the holy stories- can they be women too? I have seen pictures of Sheikhs on facebook, blessing people. Do these exist in your form of faith, who/ what are they and what is their role?
A: Yes they can be women and we have women who tell religious stories or text but the number of men are much more especially within Qawal categories…The Qawels
The Qawels are the bards and sacred singers. They bring forth religious knowledge, sacred hymns, songs and stories at special Yezidi gatherings and ceremonies, and they do so to the accompaniment of flutes, tambourines and other sacred instruments. Their roles are hereditary, and their wisdom is normally passed from parent to child. They reside principally in the Beshiqe-Behzani region of northen Iraq.
Sheikhs, who memorise religious texts, are mainly from the Qawal category as mentioned above however, other people can do that if they want and this is totally dependent on the person him/herself again…for example, my grandfather knows all most all religious text and role in Yazidism but he is not a formal religious leader.

We have also Kochek …The Kocheks, or “seers,” are servants of the Sanctuary of Lalish. Because they are blessed with spiritual gifts, such as clairvoyance, they can psychically diagnose illness and they even know the fate of a soul after leaving the body of the deceased. There are only a few Kocheks left, and they mostly reside in the Sinjar Mountains of northern Iraq. The female counterpart of Kocheks are known as Faqras. They are recognized as holy women with supernatural power. Kocheks and Faqras can come from any of the three main castes.

Q: Is anybody writing down any of the information they have memorised?
A: Recently, in 2005, the Ministry of higher Education in Kurdistan-Iraq finally agreed that Yazidi people can study and learn from a religious book called EZIDIATI…This book contains all prayers, traditional, many but not all religious texts and roles…This book is at many levels from primary school to middle school to secondary school…and now the Yazidi children are learning it.
Q: Why is there a preference for white clothing?
A: WHITE CLOTHES are a symbol of peace in our religion so almost all Yazidis
wear white clothes… We mean by that the human heart must be white, and we must act as a peaceful and truthful person.
Q: Does the faith have any formal organisation? Is there any idea yet of the amount of loss to the religion from the Daesh genocide in terms of the people holding the information in their memories?
A: Yazidi have a high spiritual religious committee that runs everything about the religion
Yes, Yazidis have lost some of the religious leaders during Daesh attacks.
Q: And finally what does your religion mean to you? How has it helped you in your life?
A: For me personally, I am not such a religious person but I believe in God and my religion but I am not doing all religious roles such as prayer and so on…My religion means for me a peace. I and all Yazidi people learn how to be a very peaceful people. For example, in one of our prayer we say ”’God please save all people on the earth and all organisms including Yazidis’. This means we are pray for everyone before praying for ourselves as Yazidis. My religion teaches me how to respect other people from different religions on the basis of humanity not religion…This point makes Yazidis  a target because we never ever had targeted any people even when we were powerful  historically and we always forgave those who were killing us.
In conclusion, Yezidism and its roles and traditions are not something obligational for the believer.  I mean our religious people do not force us to pray or carry out religious roles and so on and it totally depends on person and that is the best part about my religion.
Wow, what an interesting and inspiring religion. Thank you so much for sharing this with me and for answering all my questions.

Precious Peacock tiled relief at the City Palace in Udaipur, India

Why won’t the UK help the Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria against ISIS?

I was recently able to meet with some government officials and put my questions to them.

First of all I’d like to express my appreciation for living in a country where I can get involved in political protest, without being arrested and where the authorities are prepared to put time and effort into hearing me and my concerns. My sincere thanks go to the British government for giving me the meeting, for not being patronising and for treating me with respect. Also for answering my questions with due care and attention particularly those questions regarding the progress of ISIS, the role of the UK in Syria and, in particular, why the UK will not engage with the Rojavan Syrian Kurds and consistently denies them any support.The primary reasons for the UK’s reluctance to help the Rojavan Kurds in their struggle against ISIS, as expressed to me by government officials, seem to be these: 

  • There have been human rights abuses in Northern Syria- carried out by the Kurds
  • The YPG/J recruits 17 year olds
  • The YPG/J is linked to the listed terror organisation the PKK.
Let’s look at their first argument.
First of all let me make clear that my views are that any kind of abuse, torture or deaths in custody are inexcusable. So by all means let’s refuse to talk to any country that has such human rights abuses.
 
Going by what I was told therefore, the logical assumption is, (since we don’t talk to, or negotiate with, organisations and governments that commit human rights abuses) none of our allies will be guilty of this.
 
Check out Saudi Arabia:
 
Check out our NATO ally Turkey:

Check out China where many of our goods come from
Check out Israel

Check out the amount of people who have died at the hands of police in the USA- many unarmed 
 
For the sake of interest here is the official letter from the YPG refuting the claims (It’s slightly ungrammatical but you get the gist):
Sadly all these links are simply the tip of the iceberg. Go look for yourself. See what our UK ally Turkey is doing to its own citizens right now, at the time of writing, in Cizre, for example.

I feel quite confident at this point in time that any illegal actions carried out by Rojavan Kurds are not state sanctioned (unlike what appears to be happening in Turkey) and if people are accused of committing heinous acts then they will investigated by the Kurdish government, just as British citizens would, presumably, in similar situations.

I am not claiming that the links or my research are exhaustive and I’m not intending to point a finger at countries or to argue one way or another about whether or not the YPG/J are guilty of the allegations. 

All I’m saying is that there’s en element of hypocrisy in the excuses made by the UK government and it should not hide behind such a paltry excuse when we can see that it has long and, dare I say it, seemingly comfortable liaisons with many countries with deeply concerning human rights records.

This is not a reason not to talk to the YPG/J UK so please- pull the other one!

Regarding the second point: The YPG/J, as far as I am aware, does not have a conscious, active recruitment process focussed on youngsters. Where the authorities are made aware, youngsters are sent home. However, given the upheaval, does everyone have documentation that can clarify age? And what would you do if you were sixteen and nine months and your whole family had been beheaded while you were visiting a relative in a different village? Would you not be inclined to say, ‘I’m going to go after the people who did this so that I can stop it happening to someone else?’ Maybe you’d be inclined to say, ‘No-one is helping us defeat ISIS. No other countries are helping. I guess I just have to help myself!’ What else is left?

The bottom line is that if the UK had offered help earlier, maybe seventeen year old kids wouldn’t need to pick up weapons to defend themselves.

The final point I want to make is about the allegation that the YPG/J is linked to the PKK. Maybe it is but that doesn’t change the fact that it isn’t the PKK. It isn’t a listed organisation.

It is a legal organisation. 

Either list it or get off your butts and help. Hey, who knows, if they had help from elsewhere perhaps they wouldn’t need to be ‘linked’ to the PKK!

My final point is that Britain is talking to countries like Iran, maybe in the future even to Assad and has helped facilitate dialogue with ‘terrorist’ organisations in Northern Ireland. Surely talking to the YPG/J and their political arm the PYD should be easy in comparison since they are NOT LISTED.
 
UK- please! Stop with the lame excuses and help Rojava, the YPG and YPJ. 

Why I want to record everyone abducted or killed by Daesh/ISIS

I am going to make a record of every person killed or abducted by ISIS. This will include combatants and civilians. I hope it will include everyone killed or missing, including the victims of ISIS attacks in Tunisia, Libya and anywhere else.

Why am I doing it?
  • There is no definitive record and there are no proper numbers of people killed or abducted.
  • These people should all be remembered
  •  It will help us in the fight against ISIS as we will have numbers and statistics
  • It will reduce apathy as people link the murders with real people and real faces
  •  It will provide a record for us to be able to hunt down and prosecute the perpetrators of the crimes when they try and return to their own countries and pick up their lives
  • It will help us find the missing 
  •  Finally so that when we hold a vigil for the dead we have names.
Some of the information you give me I will keep private, some I will put on a website. The website will look something like this: killedbypolice.net
I need your help for this. I need you to give me the information.
This list depends on you
Please help me do this.
Send me any of this information if you know it:
  • proper name 
  • nom de guerre
  •  date of birth
  • father’s name/mother’s name
  • place of birth
  • place of death/abduction
  •  religion and race
  • method of death 
  • the name of the person/ unit who killed them (even if those are not the murderers’proper names) and any other information about them that is known
  • gender
  • any other information
  •  a photo if you have one.
The photo and some basic information (name, age, religion, race, gender, method/place of death) will go onto the website; for the dead and for the missing/ abducted the name, age, gender, race/ religion and place they went missing will go on. The rest of the information I will keep private, just to have records.
If you want me to keep the person anonymous I will do that but if we do that it will be harder to get people to believe what we say and act on it.
Let’s make a record to shame the governments for not doing enough. Let’s remember the dead and the missing.
When the website is made I will post the link and people can hopefully upload their own information but for now send your information to me at kostasolivetree[at]gmail[dot]com or find me on facebook.
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