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The Yazidis: Loss, Dislocation and Collective Trauma


This is is to be one. Vitelle Aviv review. To the Tel Aviv. View brought to you by the Van Leer Jerusalem institute, which promotes humanistic than critic and liberal values in the social discourse in Israel. I'm a hostgator Halpern. My partner in crime is away today. And we'll be back with us shortly. My guest today is a historian of the Middle East his research fellow at the forum for regional thinking and translator for Van Leer institutes mccoubrey series of Arabic literature into Hebrew. He specializes in the cities, it's an ethnic and religious minority group in Iraqi Kurdistan. They were propelled to the top of the world news in two thousand fourteen when Islamic state troops invaded their communities and carried out terrible atrocities that some have termed genocide it unbelie. Hello and welcome to the Tel Aviv review. Hello. Hello. So the store is it is very interesting one because they are an oppressed minority living among an oppressed minority that is the Kurds. So what can you tell us about them about that specific? Group specifically in the ethnic and political context in which they live there an oppressed minority living between the oppressing majority and formerly oppressed minority, which are the Kurds. So, you know, the balance of power in Kurdistan in Iraq has changed greatly in the in the last over the passing I would say two or three decades. And now the Kurds from an oppressed minority in the past they have become an oppressing majority. When you think about the Kurdistan regional government or the the Kurdish region, the Kurds have become a majority in once a former minority gets the power of majority, the balances of power shift dramatically and the victims of this change in power in Iraq, and the changes of internally rocky politics, the shift in power between the Iraqi government and the Kurdish government, the victims of all these. Shifts are the minority. The minority groups that are still minorities. These it is being just one of these groups do you have the Turkmen, which is Turkish speaking ethnic minority. You have the Chabad which is another critic picking Islam IQ or Muslim group, and you have of course, the Christians, which are these these neighbors in the most themselves very interesting because they are cut speaking. But they have their own religion in a way. Right. It isn't ancient religion. It's I'm calling the last son religion in the world. It's a remnant of the widespread natural religions of Mesopotamia of old Egypt any this entire area. I mean, when you think about it most of the people in this region in the modern day Middle East where one sun worshippers, and these are probably last group that steel worships the sun, the problem with these idiots what brought groups. Like ISIS in before is is we had remember Al Qaeda. Those islamized groups have. Big misunderstanding with these. So in the Koran there is a certain verse saying that God demanded the arch angel as ill that's his name in Arabic to bow to Adam to the first human being, and when we added this arch angel refuse to bow down to Adam he's punishment in the Koran was sending him away from heaven from the vicinity of God an opening for him. Hell so the arch angel who formerly was called as L became Iblis Satan. So the ZD religion or the tradition holds a very similar story of God holiday in. It's not a LA in the detection. It's the God who invented himself or created himself Khodadad amended. The arch angel though similar that was his name to bow down to Adam to his first. Created human being and when though similar refused. His explanation was that he will not bow down to anyone besides besides God. So that action that active not by down down to to the created human being was a gesture of tidy on behalf of this arch angel of thousands. So the same arch angel that is held by isthmus to be the worst of infidels. And namely, the Satan is in the tradition in the city religion the most pious of angels in he is until today. I mean in these tradition. He's part of God. So for the Islamic radicals as it is on. And for those deluxe infidels deluxe. The worst of infidels, and they call them about the shutdown which is in in our big, Satan worshippers, and this is the worst kind. I mean, it's in an Arabic. There's a charade. Or it's called a foot local far the most infidel of infidels. You can get worse than the is. It is they're the worst of infinite even worse than the Jews. Oh, absolutely Jews are monotheistic. So they're in a much better position Jusin Christians in the eyes of those instruments are in in a much better. So how do they saviour of the meanders of centuries of political meanders? In the Middle East. I mean being such a small minority surrounded by who from every action. So like many other minorities, I'm thinking about the Druze, for example, some Christian groups and some even some Jewish groups they found refuge in the mountains. So most of these idiot enclaves in Iraq nowadays are on top of mount is in sin jar the two thousand fourteen genocide took place, it's a we'll get we'll get to that mounting jar is a mountain ridge in the middle of the desert. So it's secluded. It's well guarded safe for those minorities to take refuge in and the same goes for shea Han the other big enclave of close to Mosul to maintain his region, very easy to find refuge define places to hide end to find places to attack either the government or the the authorities or to attack, and that's something that these it is done for many many years until. The beginning of the twentieth century is to rob caravans. Those mountains allowed them good vantage points to attack caravans on the way from here to there then from there to here, and that's what the they used to do for many many years. And what was the state is after the formation of the modern Iraqi state, I mean, you said that once the Kurds became an oppressive majority after having been oppressed minority for so long the balance of power shifted. But before when the Kurds was still the oppressed minority. What was the plays of these it is in that matrix. So with your permission. I'll just add something to less to your last question. Another explanation of how and why these survivors this area was that for many years for the most part of history, even Muslim authorities were not as I would say, oppressing towards minorities as some Islamist group today are so the Ottoman empire for. Semple the Ottoman empire was rather inclusive. They I wouldn't say they love their minorities. But they found ways to live side by side with the minorities to accept them and contain them in the empire in the imperial context. And I think that's spirit lasted beyond the scope or the storm scope the Ottoman empire. So when the British came into Iraq after World War One and following the entire period of the rocky kingdom into the first stages of I would say the Iraqi national nation. Stay the the state of Iraq after nineteen fifty eight the Kurds were the I would say the hunted minority the oppressed minority the persecuted minority, and the is it is where part of this group of this minority. There are as you mentioned these are Kirti speaking, and it was convenient for both the. As it is as a minority end for the Kurds as a I would say young national movement fighting against the newly the new state of Iraq. So it was convenient for both sides is it is anchored to cooperate and the Kurdish national movement in Iraq starting nineteen Fifty-eight incorporated, these es as part of the national movement. It was good for them because they got a lot of fighters for their cause for the Kurdish national cause and for these they received sort of because of their geographic reality stuck between the Arabs in the south and the Kurds in the north. It was convenient and very good. I mean, it was safe for them to be under the auspices of a bigger national movement. They didn't have a national movement of their own. They weren't the national. Community. They all separatist right now. Oh, it's nowadays. It's a new right trend. So when did the rupture between the Kurds and the eighties stall to emerge was the most was the turning point. I think it started the roots were there long before nineteen Ninety-one, but from nineteen Ninety-one on and mainly after two thousand three when the Kurdish region and the Kurdish autonomy started to grow into a state basically into a state of off to the toppling of Saddam Hussein after two thousand three two toppling of Saddam Hussein the end of the Baath regime in Iraq, the Kurdish the care g the Kurdish regional government precedes autonomy. So it was a state within a state, and when the Kurds became or emerged as a state from what they formerly were a national movement of fighting national movement militia, basically with the national 'cause when they became a state or semi state within the state of Iraq. That was the shifting point for the Kurds from an oppressed minority to I didn't start as an oppressing majority. But they certainly became a power holding majority in in their own region in critics on in northern Iraq. But the old alliance between the Kurds and the and these it is didn't Joel no they didn't end. It was a gradual. I would say process it started. When the cares you became an economy that I would say, the the the story that both Kurds, and is it is told themselves a story of collaboration between the two groups between these Kurds, the Kurds always took pride in a very old statement or saying by Melissa Zanny sold buzz on the the the former president of the care. Jeez muscle is father who was the head of the national movement until the mid nineteen seventy. He always said that there is if the cities are not the real world the or. Regional kurds. There is nothing you can call Kurds. So it's a sort of a a logic loop. But what it means is that we have to admit that all of us Kurds were onesies. And if we don't admit that we cannot call ourselves Kerr ourselves Kurds nowadays. So that was the code if I've ever seen one more or less. Exactly. Yeah. Exactly. And that was the basis for crop ration- that was the basis for this. These story links between national movements of the Kurds and these community there were tensions. There were a lot of fears on behalf of these from the Kurds mainly from a more conservative Islamic groups within the national movement of Kurds in Iraq. But this cooperation lasted, and I think the first cracks the first notable cracks in this cooperation started in Iraqi, civil war. I mean two thousand seven. There was a chain of events that targeted use eighties in both shea on NC jar it culminated in a very big blast. Or, you know, serious of blasts. Insen jarring two thousand seven August two thousand seven carried out by carried out by Qaeda, but the ZD's and rightly so I believe lame the Kurdish peshmerga the Kurdish army for allowing them. How did deal Qaeda militants got four trucks loaded with explosives through at least ten robuck there tend to blind eye turned a bland I for sure, and that's the it is, you know, hold grudge for the Kurds ever since. Okay. So now, let's move forward. Two thousand fourteen when something state troops invade northern Iran with explicit mission of wiping out these eight is because they are the worshippers of Satan exam. Right. The lowest of the low they've first infidels to go yet. They ZD's somehow despite. This history that you just mentioned you just recounted sow relied on the codes to save them. What were they thinking? They had their doubts. I mean, as I said they've had doubts the Kurds in general and the pitch Maragos loyalty to his eighties for many years before two thousand fourteen but the problem was that the Kurds allow is to hold to carry guns at all in jar or elsewhere. So the people of jar even if they wanted to make their own militias, fighting groups, whatever they couldn't do it because they had or at least the legally had no gun, formerly they shouldn't have carried any guns at all. So in the summer of two thousand fourteen the only thing they really had to do or the only option they had was to go to the Shwedagon, and you know, bag for their protection. And that's what it basically told them you have nothing to worry about. We're going to steal defend. You the community and the jar area we are prepared for any attack. And we'll we'll stay here with you until there's nothing to worry about. Yeah. So it was basically a choice between two evils out either to submit completely all to rely on. But we have defend, but we have to be fair. I mean between ISIS and the Kurds, of course, the Kurds are more logic. But it didn't help them much in real time. I think most of these it is really hoped for the best. I mean, they're really hoped right before the attacks. Isis text they really believed that the peshmerga will defense, but many of them when they attack started were driven out to refugee camps in neighboring countries all to the west that to a couple of months before it happened. I mean before that they were stranded on Munsan jar for a couple of wasn't two separate incidents. You know few people who were driven out and the others who were stranded on the amount. Whoever is the same people who after being besieged stranded on the mountain ended up in. Richie in refugee camps in ide- pecans. It's more accurate to say ID becomes within their home country and some of them try to instill are trying to move to Europe into the European dream of going out of Iraq in the Kurdistan region. But the thing was that after the attacks took place between August third and August fifteen formally they took place in those two weeks, but the people were stranded on the mountain and besieged by militants for two or three weeks afterwards. I mean until the end of August they were released from the mountain by the Syrian Kurdish groups the yet gay yet Fischer PKK all these militias from Syria and Turkey, and we're brought back to rocket Kurdistan through Syrian territory. So it started as a siege on the mountain safety. Why weather brought back to Iraq? I believe that everyone thought that it was safety. But I think we are you know, for years have passed. More than four years of passan's summer of the horrible summer of two thousand fourteen in steel, we see that most of these these are stealing the same the exact same condition and remaining in the exact same condition and in the exact same maintaining the same trauma in those becomes in Iraqi Kurdistan for so long is always going backwards. You know, the community nowadays have future they have no prospects of returning to jar. They have no hopes for turning to jar because this jar as it is. I mean, it's completely. It's ISIS has been all but wiped out it was wiped out, but singer as well was wiped out the city of jarring the entire vicinity have no hopes to rebuild it. It was home for half a million easy is more or less and going back. There are a lot of videos on YouTube, for example, you can see how the region the area is no looking it completely demolished. I mean, what once was a lively. Cities or towns in jar are not just demolished wiped out it you have nowhere to return. No infrastructure, no, human infrastructure. There are no schools. No, hospitals, nothing and no running water. So there's basically no hope for is to go back to jar. I mean, people are going back. You have a couple of thousands of these went back this jar on their own initiative, and they are leaving. I would say an eighteenth seventeenth century lives in the twenty nine neither the central. Iraqi government, nor the autonomous Kurdish government have any interest to rebuild Sinjal and to try and at least restore some of the previous month. They had all those parties. I mean in both the Kurds and the Iraqi government pay leap service to their commitment to rebuilt jar as they're know paying lip service to their commitment to rebuilding the entire region that was demolished in my eyes. But the problem is that they have to. Choose between the places they want to reveal I and the places they will reveal last and seen jar. Not. It's not a surprise to me sin. Jars always kept the this will be the the last in the in the bottom of the list. I mean, it won't happen anytime soon, and as normally is the case with such national traumas of you know, this extent trauma finds its expression in the arts and most Pacific -ly here poetry, Hugh translate an edited a collection of the poems that is titled I own nothing saved my dreams, and maybe you can read out one of the poems that you translated school busy. I am an it's by Haji Micheli. How'd you showy as good friend? And I I wanna give proper credit to another good friend of mine called Michael deco helped me greatly in editing, the English ver. Versions of these homes. The poem is called ZD. I m. I bear the pain of seventy four genocides and a million years of sobbing. My distinguishing marks are shut mouth. And paralyzed will the creator does not know me the no roadmap can contain me. The most merciful 's angels of hor me, knowing dull geons will speak in my favor and ochre onic versus will fortify walls. I am the others paved the way to paradise. I apologize to everyone who killed me. If he did not make it to heaven. If it did make it I expect no gratitude agony is inherent in my jeans pain rooted self in my bloodstream, gloom clothes itself in my body south I'm destined to leave only as the other pleases. I'm destined to die only when the other pleases crucified on the ruins of God's memory outcast from the leaving side of life thrown like an agonizing Larry on. The serrated blade of in. My only homeland exist in the sheen of tears, my only condolence exists in the conscious of grief in me. Imprisoned. The flood of my humanity. Obsesses pours out like pus. No mediation will ever get me closer to the forgotten. God no Cape for me from his ill-tempered wills by Monday 'em in the frost of fears needed. I am in the dough of disappointments mingled in weeping mixed with bitterness, my voice emir stifled grown in a forest of limitations. Hey, blocks of the ears of the universe while the Lord troubles himself with other options. I have to say that for me as an Israeli to sounds eerily familiar. I mean, you could just transpose that kind of rhetorical verses on any other kind of national trauma. Did you feel? I mean. That y'all background as an Israeli as Juno, we will raised on that kind of poet kind of echo with you in that way, the first meeting I had with these in Germany in two thousand seven I believe maybe two thousand eight the first line that I said to the first friend. I met was I know I mean, I know exactly what you buy in my hands in it runs in my blood. Whatever you say, I know it. I mean in my senses, I'm graduate of the Israeli college of trauma. We all speak in the same language. It's very common. It's very known to me. I mean, I really know it I feel it. I sense. I know what they're feeling. I heard it and I learned about it. And I, you know, it's just part of my of our day today discourse here in Israel. So it's very close to meet was very close. And I felt an immediate connection with easy. I felt them. But when B J. Genocide was actually taking place in two thousand fourteen and it was covered in the media here. Remember, it very well, it it didn't really touch of the with Israelis as much as you'd expect. Right. I think when you think about it what everything that's happened since two thousand twelve I mean, the entire, you know, the fast growing of ISIS in Syria, and then they're taking over of these large parts of Iraq and settling Mosul the second largest city in Iraq. It's something that sort of Israelis overlooked. It was a very dramatic moment and everything that happened around ISIS, including the genocide of the eighties, including the genocide of the Christians all of these things just past, you know, unheard of in Israel people here, and there they heard covered in the media. But there were, you know, minor issues in Israel received more coverage in the media then. Those dramatic events not far away from because it's been a tremendous Piaf heat for for these. If they are no center few carrier planes to the mountains of Iraq and rescued the one many people there, right? We're talking about a few thousands half a million. Around twenty to thirty thousand. I mean, it's not millions of people to Luke off. It's nothing the scalable seen before and after in Syria, for example. And that's exactly what I tried to do in those days. I mean, I tried to harness his really assistance to these is I coordinated a couple of you know, media interviews with the most prominent leaders on the mountain most prominent city commanders is a militia commanders on the mountain. They they even in one interview to relates to these really military radio militia commander ask for specific items. He said we need hammers we need tanks. We need sheen guns. We need even uniforms. We need everything. Just help us in any way. Whatever you wanna give us give us, but we really need your help. And we know exactly who we won't to see helping us. We want Israel to help us not any other stuff because they see Israel as you know, sharing similar fate in the middle. East? You know, being the Jerry's infidels of the Middle East having a common infidelities, not the issue here. But the common enemy is definitely an issue, and the D C, you said common faith, I think it's common history more than common fate. I mean the history plays a big role here. I mean, they always looked Israel. They have this strange way to see Israel as I an enemy of their enemy, which is always by default friend. But also, they imagine Israel as a place who is in, you know, eternal enmity with the Arabs, an ISIS being Erebus are sort of made sense to them that Israel forever. Enemy of the Arabs must help them face this era group called ISIS that was naive. But they sit it change anything in Israel decision making circles. No, of course, not Israel. I mean, I spoke with a couple of prominent politicians here. In the government outside of the government in opposition. But the left-wing opposition here as well. And nobody showed any interest at all whatsoever. Some of them gave me I would say even shameful responses. I mean, completely degrading UCD's too. You know, it's just Arab scaling Arabs. Who the hell cares? I have decided I probably like many others readies had no idea who it is until two thousand fourteen. How did you become interested in them in the first place? It was completely accidental. I mean, I was looking for when I started thinking about subject for my masters theses I was looking for a topic that will be Iraqi topic potentially concerning the Kurds or any other minority groups containing documents and sources in Arabic that will interest me, and that will be something that nobody has ever. Written about and the issues very convenient. Because it incorporated all the event you had this personal level. Because when I started working on the is it is very quickly. I started working with these said that the poet that we just talked about the friend president all of these. I started translating the poetry as their friend. I mean, I'm usually starting my translations with friendships the person comes before the tone or the tax. So it started as a friendship, and then all of a sudden I saw on the on this friends Facebook walls plethora of poetry that. I was amazed. Actually, I didn't know that many of them were writers, let alone very good poets. So I was very surprised. I started I started translating their texts their poems. But how did I get in touch with them? You just wrote to them and said you interested in the culture and the holy yeah. Yeah. I just sent out. Tons of emails, and I was just waiting for someone to respond. I was very, you know, as an Israeli where we're taught to be skeptic. Oh, that's because no-no I. But then after the part, I started to be I became very skeptic. I didn't think that you know, anyone will respond, but apparently all of them responded, and they were very enthusiastic to talk to me to help me to give me any assistance. I need when I went to Germany for a month during the work on my master's, 'this they helped me in a way. I mean, I can't even start to describe. It was amazing, and it really became friendships that exceeded the scope of of this master's theses or any work that I you know, academically did on the is it is. It's just it started and remained basically friendship thing. All right. It historian of the Middle East research fellow at the form four regional thinking and translator for the Van Leer institutes MC tube series. Thank you very much for joining us today for this fascinating this country about these thanks so much that was my pleasure. And although Vang's to gizmos sound engineer into Thai shell Alfred USA. Now, we have a small request many. Oh, most of you. Listen to us on the apple podcasts app. And we would like to ask you this. Please consider writing review just launch the apps and exile pulled custody library action, scroll down to ratings and review and then press writer review, and then of course, right one. Also, you can support us by going to a website. 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