Yazidis mark New Year still haunted by ISIS horrors

4/20/2023 3:21:06 PM
 Iraqi Yazidis light candles during a ceremony marking the Yazidi New Year outside the Temple of Lalish in a valley near the Kurdish city of Dohuk on April 18, 2023. The Yazidis, who number about 1.6 million, commemorate the arrival of light into the world during the new year celebrations. Safin HAMED / AFP
One by one, members of Iraq's minority Yazidi community light oil lamps to mark their New Year at a sacred shrine, but for Omar Sinan the celebration cannot erase the atrocities of jihadist rule.

In 2014, the Islamic State (ISIS) group swept across swathes of Iraq, carrying out horrific violence against the Kurdish-speaking community whose non-Muslim faith the extremists considered heretical.

ISIS massacred thousands of men and abducted thousands of women and girls as sex slaves.

Tuesday night as the sun set over the Lalish stone shrine in northern Iraq, Yazidis began lighting oil lamps, 365 of them, one for each day of the year.

Hundreds came to mark the Yazidi New Year -- which to the faithful commemorates the creation of the universe by angels and celebrates nature and fertility.

Six years after Iraq declared victory over ISIS, the Yazidis came to Lalish barefoot and dressed in white.

The men wore embroidered vests over their shirts while women donned traditional head coverings, featuring gold coins.

"Before, this was a time for celebration and our joy was immense. But today... we cannot forget what we have been through," said Sinan, attending the celebration with his children.

The Yazidis follow an ancient religion that emerged in Iran more than 4,000 years ago and is rooted in Zoroastrianism. Over time it incorporated elements of Islam and Christianity.

The community was persecuted for years, including under Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

'For eternity'

When IS invaded Iraq in August 2014, one of their targets was Sinjar, the Yazidis' historic home on the Nineveh Plain, in a remote corner of the country's north.

"Ever since the genocide, there is sadness in our hearts. It won't go away," said Sinan, a 37-year-old mathematics teacher.

"This sadness will live in us for eternity."

During the New Year celebration, Yazidis pay their respects at the graves of relatives, and those who can afford it slaughter a sheep and offer some of the meat to the poor.



 Most Read

KURDSAT NEWS © 2021, All Rights Reserved