Why Iraqi Yezidis do not trust Turkey?


Yezidi man who fled Iraqi Shingal and entered Turkey looking for shelter, in a state of contemplation. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Urfa, Turkey – “An old woman asked her son to kill her because she was unable to climb the mountain”, remembers Majed Hussein, a 47-year-old Yezidi man from Shingal, in northern Iraq, who fled to Diyarbakir in southeast of Turkey with thousands of Yezidis following the 74th massacre committed against them by extremists of the Islamic State (IS).

Hussein described to ARA News the happenings of August 13, 2014, when al Qaeda splinter group of the Islamic State (IS/ISIS) attacked the village of Shekh Khodri in the Shingal area.

“The villagers defended themselves against IS terrorists until munitions finished; meanwhile, our families ran away from Shingal,” he said.

“IS blocked the northern road to Iraqi Kurdistan, which obliged the villagers to climb Mount Sinjar to face the death out of hunger and thirst. Those who could not climb committed suicide, especially women,” Hussein told ARA News, taking a deep sigh.

Hussein said that he lost contact with two sisters of his wife. He quoted witnesses: “Many Yezidi women were captured by IS to be later sold in Tal Afar, Mosul and other Iraqi regions after being raped”.

ARA News met Yezidi refugees in one of Diyarbakir gyms that became a collective accommodation where white cloth is used to separate the living space of each family from the other.

Chetto Bedran is a 45-year-old Yezidi refugee who lives there with his mother, wife and four daughters.

Bedran expressed his worries about his brother’s family that he lost contact with.

“I hope they are all dead now so we can grieve for days, but what I’m afraid of is that they are being tortured by IS. I’m afraid that my brother’s wife and his daughters have been caught and taken as captives by the terrorists,” Bedran told ARA News.

Yezidi Refugees Suffering in Turkey

Thousands of Yezidis have gathered along Turkey’s borders with Iraq and Syria fleeing the nightmare of the Islamic State.

The Turkish government officials stated to local media more than once that Yezidis “are welcome”. However, Many Yezidis, whom ARA News met, disagreed with that.

Ziad Kimo, 43, escaped Shingal to Turkey, pointed out that neither NGOs nor governmental organizations provided them with any help.

“The only assistance we got is donations collected by the Kurds in Diyarbakir city,” Ziad told ARA News.

Speaking to ARA News, Elizabeth Herms, representative of a charitable American Christian organization who arrived in Turkey to visit Iraqi Yezidi refugees and report on their needs, said: “I visited the refugees in Silopi and Batman, in southeastern Turkey. Their situation is worse than those in Diyarbakir.”

Herms pointed out that Yezidi refugees in Silopi and Batman “are staying in big tents where many families live together”.

“Those refugees need food and water. The babies suffer shortage of infant formula,” said Herms.

Secretary of Kurdistan Democratic Party in Turkey, Sartag Bucak, explained the delay in helping the Yezidi refugees in Turkey despite of the big numbers of humanitarian organizations in the country.

“Turkey is ruled by an Islamic party and all Turkish relief organizations are Islamic, so they do not provide assistance to Yezidis,” Bucak told ARA News.

“In 1980, many Yezidi villages were evacuated by Muslims and Turks in Viransehir in southeastern Turkey. So how would they help Iraqi Yezidis now?” Bucak wondered.

Rukir Cakhir, a leading member in the Turkish Kurdistani Youth Movement, commented on the same issue: “The Turkish government didn’t show willingness to help those refugees only because they were Yezidi Kurds.”

Cakhir considered the Turkish government’s statement about hosting refugees as “beautifying image” to an “ugly reality”, confirming that “only passport or visa carriers were allowed to enter Turkey, and they are not allowed to stay for longer than a month”.

Speaking to ARA News, governor of the town of Khirba Belek in southern Viransehir, Ozcan Guran, said that he hosts several Yezidi families in his own house, complaining about the lack of aid from the part of the Turkish government.

“The government did not respond as those Yezidis are Kurds and because the Democracy and Peace Party (linked to Kurdistan Workers Party ‘PKK’) helped them,” Guran said.

Based on the statistics ARA News received, the number of Iraqi Yezidi refugees in Turkey is estimated with 7,000, of them 2100 are based in Silopi, 1500 in Batman, 1000 in Midyat, 1400 in Diyabakir, 700 in Viransehir and 500 in Sparta.  However, the numbers are still unknown in other Turkish cities.

Turkish Yezidis Show Sympathy 

Guran pointed out that Turkish Yezidi villagers wanted to establish a camp for the Iraqi refugees on their private expense. “However, local Turkish authorities refused to give authorization.”

“We established an emergency association comprising 12 members to help Iraqi Yezidi refugees,” Guran told ARA News in an exclusive interview.

“We prepared a proposal to establish a camp and appealed to the authorities to fund the project of housing the displaced Raqi Yezidis, but they refused to provide any financial assistance in this regard, saying there are refugee camps previously established in Urfa and Mardin,” said the governor of Khirba Belek town.

According to Guran, Yezidis’ psychological status prevents them from heading to Muslim-majority areas in Turkey, such as Urfa and Mardin, especially after what they recently experienced on the hands of militants of the Islamic State (IS) and other pro-IS Arabs in northern Iraq.

“Thus, we understand their eagerness to stay in Turkish areas with Yezidi majority,” Guran said. “However, the Turkish authorities don’t care that much about the psychological status of these refugees.”

Guran expressed the ability of his administration to help Yezidis to some extent, even without the support of the Turkish authorities or relief and humanitarian organizations, “but they do not allow us to make any decisions in this regard”.

Ali Yuksel, a prominent Yezidi businessman in Turkey and member of the Yezidi Union in Viransehir, expressed his annoyance of Yezidis’ migration to Europe.

“Unfortunately, many Iraqi Yezidis exploited the situation to immigrate to Europe, leaving behind their areas to terrorists,” Yuksel stated to ARA News. “They should have rather stayed in their areas to defend it against Islamists.”

Yuksel expressed his concerns about a potential demographic change in northern Iraq following control of the Islamic State over main Yezidi towns and villages there.

Yezidis’ Mass Migration

Zeina A. is a 23-year old Yezidi refugee girl who fled Iraqi Shengal and came to Turkey with two brothers, while the rest of her family members are missing. She lives in Diyarbakir municipality gym now.

Zeina talked to ARA News about what she called “the betrayal” of their Arab neighbours in Shingal ” who supported IS against Yezidis and participated in committing massacres to show loyalty to the Islamic State’s Caliph”.

“IS came to our region with one car but when they were passing through the Arab villages, dozens of Arabs joined them and raised IS flags on their houses.”

She confirmed that Arabs asked Yezidis not to leave, as they will protect them. However, when IS members arrived Arabs pointed to the Yezidi families and backed IS militants in finding them.

“IS militants arrested Yezidis then killed the majority of them, keeping women as captives,” Zeina told ARA News.

Many Yezidi refugees said: “We won’t go back to Shingal. We will flee to Europe.”

“If we would consider returning to Shingal, we would not accept the protection of Peshmerga or the Iraqi Central Government; would prefer the UN’s protection.”

Hussein, the 47-year-old Yezidi man from Shingal, said in tears: “We are pacifists. We are poor. We do not like war or politics. We want to live in peace. We trust no one to protect us.”


Reporting by: Ridwan Bizar

Source: ARA News

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