Tuesday, November 21, 2017
News Roundup

Trapped on a barren mountain, who are the Yazidis?

RECOMMENDED READING


WASHINGTON — It's tragic that the world pays attention to largely forgotten communities only in their moments of greatest peril. This week, tens of thousands of Yazidis — a mostly Kurdish-speaking people who practice a unique, syncretic faith — fled the advance through northern Iraq of the Islamic State's Sunni jihadists, who have set about abducting and killing hundreds of members of this religious minority. As many as 40,000 remain stranded on Mount Sinjar, dying of hunger and thirst and devoid of much support from a faltering Iraqi government.

Ever since seizing Mosul, Iraq's main urban center in the north, the forces of the Islamic State have embarked on a gruesome mission to transform their domain into an idealized caliphate — on the way, they've forced the conversion of religious minorities, destroyed the shrines of rival sects and butchered those they consider apostates. This week, a distraught Yazidi member of parliament in Baghdad made an impassioned appeal on behalf of her people: "An entire religion is being exterminated from the face of the Earth," she said.

The Yazidis, globally, number about 700,000 people, but the vast majority of the community — about half a million or more — live concentrated in Iraq's north. The city of Sinjar was their heartland. Now, it is in the possession of extremists who seem bent on ethnic cleansing.

The Yazidi faith is a fascinating mix of ancient religions. Its reputed founder was an 11th century Umayyad sheik whose lineage connected him to the first great Islamic political dynasty. His tomb in the Iraqi city of Lalish is a site of Yazidi pilgrimage, mirroring the Sufi practices of millions of Muslims elsewhere; now, there are reports of the town being turned into a refugee camp for the displaced.

Despite its connections to Islam, the faith remains distinctly apart. It was one of the non-Abrahamic creeds left in the Middle East, drawing on various pre-Islamic and Persian traditions.

Yazidis believe in one God who is represented by seven angels. According to Yazidi lore, one of the angels, Malak Tawous, was sent to Earth after refusing to bow to Adam, the Economist explains. Represented in peacock form, he is considered neither wholly good nor evil by Yazidis, but Muslim outsiders know him as "shaytan," or Satan. The Islamic State has justified its slaughter of Yazidis on the basis of the long-standing slur that they are "devil-worshipers."

Bobby Ghosh, former Time magazine Baghdad bureau chief, writes that his Sunni and Shiite colleagues referred to Yazidis as devil-worshipers "as a joke, even a term of endearment." But the Islamic State "is taking the false claim of satanism far too seriously."

The sect suffered a long history of persecution, caught amid overlapping ambitions of empires and later the emergence of fractious Arab states. The Yazidi member in the Iraqi parliament referenced "72 massacres" in her people's history, ranging from the rampages of conquering Mongols to the zealous purges of the Ottomans, who at various moments targeted the Yazidis, including during the early 20th century massacres of Armenians that many now consider a genocide.

The Yazidis' fragile existence in northern Iraq grew more delicate after Baghdad's deeply polarized sectarian politics took hold and militants gained sway. Much of northern Iraq's ancient Christian population has steadily fled to diasporic communities in Europe. The Yazidis largely remained. That life, though, also may now be a thing of the past.

Comments

St. Petersburg council passes living wage ordinance

ST. PETERSBURG — An ordinance requiring certain city contractors to pay workers a minimum of $12 an hour was approved by City Council members Thursday with some amendments. The living wage ordinance applies to businesses with major city contracts pro...
Updated: 4 hours ago
NTSB report details steep turns and dives preceding Roy Halladay’s fatal crash

NTSB report details steep turns and dives preceding Roy Halladay’s fatal crash

Before he crashed, Roy Halladay flew within 75 feet of houses and skimmed the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, according to a report published Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board.The report, which did not address the cause of the crash, ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Ruth: Would high-speed rail have reduced traffic deaths on I-4?

Ruth: Would high-speed rail have reduced traffic deaths on I-4?

Ah, just in time for the Thanksgiving travel season, Florida has once again achieved national prominence. We’re No. 1 — with a body bag! Can’t you feel the pride swelling?A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds that...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

Editorial: Florida should restore online access to nursing home inspections

In a state with the nation’s highest portion of residents over 65 years old and more than 80,000 nursing home beds, public records about those facilities should be as accessible as possible. Yet once again, Florida is turning back the clock to the da...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Blasts at plant kill 1, injure dozens

Blasts at plant kill 1, injure dozens

NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. — Authorities recovered the body of a male worker reported missing after two explosions and a fire at a New York cosmetics factory left 30 to 35 people injured, including seven firefighters caught in the second blast, officials said...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Sex assault reports declining at MacDill despite increase militarywide

Sex assault reports declining at MacDill despite increase militarywide

TAMPA — The number of sexual assaults reported to officials at MacDill Air Force Base has decreased dramatically during the past three years even as reports across the military have increased slightly, new Pentagon statistics show.Officials at MacDil...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Florida A&M football coach Alex Wood resigns

TALLAHASSEE — Alex Wood resigned as Florida A&M football coach Monday, two days after the Rattlers completed their season. Athletic director Milton Overton Jr. said offensive line coach Edwin Pata, a former FSU tight end, will serve as interim coach....
Updated: 5 hours ago

PORT RICHEYWoman accused of beating boy, 4, with hangerA Port Richey woman was arrested on a charge of felony child abuse after a 4-year-old boy in her care told deputies she hit him with a clothes hanger, leaving bruises, the Pasco County Sheriff’s ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
‘I tried,’ mother of killer Adam Matos says at sentencing

‘I tried,’ mother of killer Adam Matos says at sentencing

NEW PORT RICHEY — His family described him as a loving, kindhearted father. His neighbors regarded him as quiet and respectful. His friends recalled him as "happy-go-lucky," a "laid-back, fun guy."Thirteen witnesses told of a softer side of Adam Mato...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

ST. PETERSBURG — That the Rays went right up to Monday’s 8 p.m. deadline in deciding to add seven players to the 40-man roster, and that a couple they left off seem to be potential Rule 5 draft losses, was apparently a good thing."There’s always some...
Updated: 5 hours ago