Category: humanity

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…

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

 

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

Remembering 7/7

Today we remember the victims of 7/7.

How do you find words to describe the atrocity? The indiscriminate killing? The inhumanity? The trauma and terror? How do you get through the loss without getting caught up in negativity and hatred?

You rise above the evil as much as possible. You focus on the moving stories of light and hope that come out of the darkness. Stories of survival and humanity, of bravery, compassion and of sheer heroism.

You don’t let evil win.  You lose fear and you act. You stand up and shout out against extremism, against inaction.

The evil we face now may not be quite the same as it was then – it has mutated, becoming better organised, harder to pin down and more pervasive. It has become even more barbaric if that is possible and is responsible for the wholesale slaughter of civilians right across Syria and Iraq. Spare a thought for the brave men and women in Northern Syria and Iraq battling against this terrorism every day and for the many victims who are at the mercy of an invading militia made up of citizens from all over the world, including Britain.

For as long as this caliphate cult flourishes everything that underpins our society is at risk. Our lives are at risk.

It makes me feel even more driven to make a difference, and hopefully see the end of ISIS and other forms of harmful extremism. Join me in any way you can. Write to your MPS, sign the petition, ask your MPs to table a question in Parliament. Make sure you understand what’s going on in Northern Syria and see if you can get your MPs to acknowledge the efforts of the YPG and YPJ. (Northern Syrian Kurds- they are already acknowledging the Iraqi Kurds and supporting them). Push our governments to provide the YPG and YPJ with the help they need.

For letter templates and the petition scroll down to previous posts, or look in the side bar.

Don’t be cowed. Shout out so that the victims are not forgotten and evil is defeated- it’s the very least we can do because if ISIS wins in Northern Syria the consequences do not bear thinking about..

Tunisia, France, Kuwait and Kobane.

I’m terribly saddened this last week at the news of terrorist attacks in three separate countries all of them engineered by ISIS.There was an attempt at a chemical plant in France with the brutal beheading of the manager, the shooting of holiday makers on a beach in Tunisia that has resulted in over 30 deaths, and a suicide bombing of a Shia mosque in Kuwait with a loss of over 27 lives. 

The media has been filled with terrible pictures of pain and suffering and the stunned incomprehension of normal people who were doing nothing but go about their normal business when their world imploded. But while these images, of Tunisia in particular, have flooded the news reports, there have been ISIS attacks elsewhere, in which gunmen have shot and killed children, not just adult tourists and where the death toll has been over 150 adults and children. Here you see the same stunned incomprehension, the same dreadful grief on so many faces, but this time it’s Kobane, where there are so many ISIS terrorists that they qualify as an invading army, where the media coverage has been so scarce that it verges on shameful. The people in this town didn’t deserve to die any more than the people in the Mosque worshipping, or the people on the beach holidaying, or the man going to work. None of them deserved to die and I’m saddened that despite David Cameron’s rhetoric about stopping extremism, he still won’t enter dialogue with the Kurds in Rojava to see what Britain can do to help. 

My thoughts and prayers go out to all the people suffering at the hands of ISIS wherever they are. I will keep shouting for you in the hope that my voice will be heard at some point.

Be wise, be brave, be strong.

USA letter for adapting and sending.

Here is a letter that you might wish to adapt  and send to your Senator if you live in the USA.

Thanks to Don Weingarten for writing this.

I write to you to urge increased US military support for Kurdish forces in the face of the Islamist jihadi’s of ISIS.
Among the Kurds fighting ISIS are the Peshmerga, the security force of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), the People’s Protection Units, initials YPG and YPJ (a force solely of women) and military units of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
All of these, particularly the PKK, YPG and YPJ, are poorly equipped, and lack heavy weapons.
In addition, the PKK has been classified by the US as a terrorist group, in my opinion mistakenly. Thus US citizens, many of them military veterans, who have joined their fight, and anyone who contributes to their support, are at risk of legal sanctions by the US government.
In response to this I ask you to
1) Join Senators Ernst and Boxer as a sponsor of the Senate bill to provide US arms directly to the Peshmerga
2) Offer an amendment to the Ernst-Boxer bill providing arms also directly to the PKK, YPG and YPJ.
3) Offer an additional amendment to the Ernst-Boxer bill to insure that no legal action will be taken against US citizens who join or support the PKK, YPG, YPJ or any other Kurdish military unit in their fight against ISIS.
A few days ago, Ramadi the capital of Anbar Province, fell to ISIS in the face of failed resistance by Iraqi security forces.
Military success against ISIS has come only from the Kurds.
Indeed the Kurds have stood heroically almost alone against the ISIS onslaught.
We, the United States, despite our mistakes, overall have been the good guys. That’s our role. Time to act!

First hand account of a visit to a Yezidi refugee camp.

This is a guest post by Rachel Emec and is her account of her visit to a refugee camp in eastern Turkey. Her original post can be seen here: 

http://www.turkishliving.com/forums/news-views/79241-my-news-my-refugee-camp-visit.html

Rachel is raising money for this camp here: http://www.gofundme.com/t3pkgs 

My News & My Refugee Camp Visit

I haven’t really posted on the forum much over the past year … but there are a few things that I would like to share with you that may be of interest to some members. I also wanted to update members who were involved with my charity collections sending clothes, toys and teddies to refugees from Syria.

A few years ago I wrote a thread about my travels to Diyarbakir in The South East Of Turkey which I had a great response from.
http://www.turkishliving.com/forums/…st-turkey.html
I’d like to tell you about my most recent trip and the events leading up to it. (sorry if it’s long but I’ll try and be brief).
Many of you may know that for years I have been involved in Kurdish issues, I’ve signed hundreds of human rights petitions, set up charity collections, helped Kurdish children get an education, I’ve protested about inequality and inhumanity. I’ve been touched by many things for many years but never have I been touched by anything more than this.
In early March this year I read about the death of a young man, Konstandinos Erik Scurfield. A 25 year old former Royal Marine he left the UK to travel to Syria to fight alongside Kurdish forces. On the 2nd March 2015 he was sadly killed. What touched me so much was the fact that Kosta wasn’t Kurdish…in fact he had no links to the Kurdish cause or community. He wasn’t a mercenary, he’d had a promising career in The Marines. He took the medical training he had learnt and travelled to Syria not for money or to be a hero, he simply wanted to help.
I attended Kosta’s funeral here in Nottingham on 26th March. Like many of the hundreds of people there I had never met him…but on that day, in that church I looked at his coffin and his family and I decided that what I’ve done in my life for others just wasn’t enough!
On 3rd April this year….still reeling with the emotion of the previous week I travelled to Turkey with my husband and 2 sons. It was a trip for Kawa and Lesker to see Granny and granddad and for me to catch up with some things and with some friends. It wasn’t long before I was told in some detail about the Ezidi refugee camp on the outskirts of Diyarbakir. In desperate need of help I was asked if I’d visit. Then a former member of TLF messaged me suggesting a visit so I arranged to go and have a look around. So I did….
The camp holds 6000 Ezidi refugees, 3500 of those are children. Babies are being born and the camp has only 2 cots. The Turkish Government does not and has not donated one kurus YES not ONE PENNY to the camp’s running costs. Nor does the UN, nor any other charity or organisation. Turkey blocks any group from working in there. The camp has been set up and is run entirely by public donations and goodwill.
On entering the camp I was met by a middle aged man who had quite severe learning difficulties, he had escaped the Brutal massacre of Ezidi men…how I was soon to find out.
I had free access to the camp, my husband’s friend volunteers as a doctor and my sister in law has a friend who helped process the refugees. When they first came she worked for 40 days and nights with minimal sleep to help settle them. The people working there are living angels x
There are sooo many children, it hits you. There are elderly, not many men and fewer young women. I hope I can post photos at the end of the post but there is a beautiful young lady of about 18, I really connected with her. I thought that the young girl that she had was her daughter. Sadly not, mum had been murdered and this was the aunt. Surrounded by children many without parents she cared for so many.
The stories that they tell of what was behind them are horrific…utterly horrific and I feel unable to share most with you.
I was approached by an Ezidi elder who invited me to his home. Home for everyone is a tent, a foam mattress and a blanket. Tents have a small area for preparing food and some have a heater. Everything is communal there, showers, washing facilities, clothes stores. It costs 8000 lira a day to run the camp…not much per head.
Before I sat he held my hand and thanked me for visiting. He spoke English, Kurdish and Turkish among other languages. He told me very firmly that the only reason that the majority of those in the camp were alive was because of The PKK. It was a message that EVERY ONE of those refugees that came from Shingal in Iraq told me. The PKK fought ISIS to the death, they carried the disabled, the old and the children to safety….and that is the reason Turkey ignores this camp. The Turkish government will only allow aid to get to it if Ezidi refugees publicly deny The PKK’s help.
Turkey have also said that they want the small school closed inside the camp unless it teaches in Turkish (all the children speak Kurdish). Turkey in fact wants to ban any Kurdish being spoken at all in the camp (this even applies to the volunteer counsellors that help the rape victims!)
The next group of people I spoke to were refugees from Mount Sinja. They spoke of how they were saved by The YPG and (deep breath!) a group of foreign fighters fighting alongside them. I didn’t really speak until they told me that some spoke English.
I’d read that Kosta posted on his Facebook page that he had helped lift the siege of Sinja mountain… here I was sitting with women and children that he had directly help save. A week before I was weeping at his funeral, now I was weeping at what he’d done. I showed these few refugees the photos I had of his funeral….and we all wept together.
I spent quite a bit of time at the camp (and I think you’ve probably had enough of me already) but walking out I decided that if I am to do anything in my life it’s to help these people.
We have to stand up to ISIS, in doing so we are standing up for humanity. These people were good people, they just happened to be Ezidi and therefore a target for ISIS. The camp now holds families from Kobane, unable to go home due to the ongoing fighting and threat of ISIS.
Kosta’s mum has set up a petition that needs more people to sign
https://www.change.org/p/number-10-downing-street-barack-obama-jean-claude-juncker-stop-isis-act-decisively
There is also a group: 
Kosta’s Olive Tree
Thanks for reading so far. I also just wanted to thank everyone who donated to my clothing and teddy collections over the years. I’ve been in contact with some people who benefited from them when they needed help. Syria is in turmoil and at that time the West didn’t know just how much. We got clothing to people before aid agencies did…so Thankyou x

The petition- please sign

Here is the link to the petition that I promised you. Can we make it reach 100.000? If we do, the British Government will have to discuss it in parliament. Please sign and share.

Stop ISIS, act decisively

Talk given at Kurdish reception after Erik Konstandinos Scurfield’s death

I wrote and gave this talk at a reception in Parliament shortly after Kosta’s death.

I would like to start by taking this opportunity to thank the Kurdish people from the Rojava region for looking after my son and honouring him and for their support in his repatriation and the financial assistance they’re giving us for this. I’d also like to thank the people from the Kurdish region of Iraq and particularly the Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani for their support of my husband during this difficult time and for pulling out all the stops to expedite the paperwork so that we can bring Kosta home. It is heart-warming to see Kurdish people coming together over a common goal and it bodes well for the future. I’d also like to thank the Foreign and Commonwealth office and the police for their advice, support and encouragement and my MP Dan Jarvis and his office for their unstinting support, advice and empathy which helped keep us strong; my family, friends, acquaintances and even total strangers for their hugs and exceptional support which have helped ease our grief. We’d also like to thank the media in the UK and Greece for the respect and dignity they have shown in their discussion of Kosta.
Kosta was not a mercenary. He wasn’t an out of work soldier looking for an adventure or something to do to pass the time. After fulfilling his obligation to Greece by doing his national service there, he joined the Royal Marines and only left his well-paid job there in order to go to Syria to fight against so called IS. He wasn’t paid a wage as a reward for going out to oppose IS; he gave up a wage to do it.
As a Royal Marine I was told Kosta was exemplary. While serving in the Marines and on exercise in Nevada, I am told he saved the life of a colleague by administering timely first aid. He was also one of the first on the scene when Luke Island lost his life in the Cairngorms and he insisted on keeping a long vigil at Luke’s side until the necessary authorities arrived. While in Rojava he worked alongside thousands of Kurds to create a corridor so that the trapped Yezidi people whose plight touched the heart of the British nation could leave mount Sinjar and escape to relative safety in Rojava. While participating in this he administered first aid to an injured colleague and carried him down the mountain to safety, saving his life. When Ashley Johnston fell Kosta went to retrieve his body. We are told he was a positive motivating force and always first to volunteer. Kosta would never ask someone to do something that he himself wasn’t prepared to do first.
Ashley Johnston and Kosta. Both served in the same YPG unit and both died within a week of each other.
Kosta was determined to make a difference and although this is not a way that many of us would have had him choose, it was the way he considered the best for him and I am proud of him for finding the courage to do this. He went out to oppose so called IS of course but really he went out to support the fundamental rights of every human being to live in their own country, with a government they have chosen rather than one imposed on them by religious ideology, the right to worship the God of their choice, in the way they choose, to celebrate their own culture and language, to read and speak freely, to make music and enjoy art or play football without fear of brutal execution. In other words he was a humanitarian who, in his own words, wanted to help.
We have found the support of so many people stunning and inspiring. We welcome it but we must remember that he is not the only person to have died at the hands of so called IS. He is not the only hero. I am not the only mother who is grieving. We mustn’t forget Ashley Johnston, Ivanna Hoffmann, James Foley, Ali al Sayyed, Steven Sotloff, David Haines, Abbas Medlej, Hervé Gourdel killed by an affiliated group in Algeria, Alan Henning, cameraman Raad al-Azzawi, Peter Edward Kassig, Haruna Yukawa, Kenji Goto Jogo, Hujam Surchi of the Peshmerga, Moaz al-Kassasbeh of Jordan, 21 Coptic Christians, 500 Kurdish men and women combatants, the victims of Charlie Hebdo, the Iraqi soldiers executed and dropped into mass graves, the group of 13 year olds executed for playing football, and the thousands of civilian women and children sold into slavery or brutally murdered for being the wrong religion or race. There are many more who we don’t know about and can’t name.
Does any human being really believe this self-titled IS is Islamic? Does any rational person really believe it is a state? It has repeatedly proved through its actions that it is a gang of genocidal, mass murdering, and sex trafficking terrorists and we should give them a name that reflects this. To call them anything else lends them credence.
Kosta may not have been supporting British political interests with his actions but he was certainly supporting British values. Values that are pretty standard across the Western world and that we take for granted. Values that make me grateful every day that I live in Europe. He was born on the day of the Deal bombings and in the year that the Berlin wall fell. He saw the Balkan wars, the Afghanistan war and the Iraq war. He was brought up in a multi-cultural, multi lingual family. He was taught to value Democracy, religious freedom and the rights of women. He watched while the Western world joined wars to promote these values and then he watched while genocide and brutal executions took place, while women were sold into slavery, and those same governments did nothing. Being brought up to think critically and having acquired a set of specific and valuable skills he decided that it was cowardly to stand by on the sidelines so he went to do what he could and what he believed was right. In our family we have always believed that if something needs to be done you step up and get it done, rather than wait for someone else to do it and he did exactly that, in the end giving his life for these values.
 
He was one small drop in a massive ocean but he has caused big ripples and now I ask that the governments and media across the world turn their attention to so called IS. Shine the spotlight on them so brightly that there is no shadow deep enough for them to hide. Name and shame every government and politician that supports this organisation either covertly or overtly and ensure they are sanctioned, name and shame every organisation that sells them weapons, buys their oil or does any business with them at all and ensure strong penalties. Self-titled IS needs two things in order to continue their foul work. They need people and they need money. Let’s think creatively about how we can cut off their supplies of both even if it means rethinking treaties.
 
Not everyone can be a Kosta but there are elections coming up. If you are feeling politically apathetic but have strong feelings about self-titled IS, then here is a cause and a clear reason to get involved. Ask your MP what their view is on so called IS. Ask what they are going to do about it. Ask what will be done to immediately secure a humanitarian corridor into Rojava so that the refugees who Kosta helped can now have the aid they need. Ask what our government is going to do to support the work of Mogens Lykketoft, the Danish MP who says that strong action is needed to ensure thousands of women who have been taken captive and are being sold to rich businessmen are returned to their former lives. Ask your MPs what they are going to do to ensure that pressure is put on countries where these women are being trafficked to ensure that it ceases and they are returned. Ask why we are not supporting the Kurds at the frontline in Syria by, at the very least, equipping them with defensive equipment such as bullet proof vests and night vision goggles. These Rojavan Kurds are the 300 Spartans fighting the massive Persian army; they are inadequately equipped but armed with spirit, conviction and the desire to protect home and hearth, they have shown that the so called IS is not invincible and they have halted its advance. We owe them as much help as we can. Let’s stop standing by and let’s instead think creatively about grinding down and putting out the biggest threat to the world since the Nazis. 

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