No other people have as much right to self-government and self-defence as the Yazidis, said Yazidi journalist Eyüp Burç in an exclusive interview with Medya News marking the ninth anniversary of the genocide of the Yazidis by the Islamic State (ISIS).
On the eve of the ninth commemoration of the Yazidi Genocide, Burç stressed the need to put the tragedy on the agenda of democratic discourse.
Burç delved into the roots of the Yazidi faith, emphasising its antiquity, stating that “Yazidism is the most ancient faith, older than the Assyrian/Chaldean Christianity”. This connection to spiritual heritage is vital to Yazidi identity, making the symbolic renaming of the 1200-year-old Yazidi village of Kiwêx to “Islam” in Şırnak (Şirnex) province, İdil (Hezex) district, all the more poignant. Burç condemned the genocide as a deliberate erasure of the Yazidi identity by the Turkish authorities.
The interview revolved around the urgent demands made by the Yazidi community:
First and foremost, Burç reiterated the call for the establishment of a tribunal for the prosecution of those responsible for the crimes committed during the Yazidi genocide. “A court for the Yazidi genocide, a tribunal, must be established immediately under the auspices of the United Nations,” he said, leaving no room for ambiguity.
Equally pressing was the issue of facilitating the return home of displaced Yazidis currently living in camps, the journalist said. The ongoing suffering of his people, driven from their ancestral lands, resonated in Burç’s plea for action. “The Yazidis must be enabled to return to their villages, under the initiative of the United Nations or some Western states, the process of returning and settling in their homes must be ensured,” he stressed.
The Yazidi’s critical aspirations for self-government and self-defence must be met, Burç said. In accordance with Article 105 of the Iraqi constitution, he advocated for the establishment of an autonomous “Ezidixan” region. This region would not only guarantee security, but also allow Yazidis to freely exercise cultural rights. “Urgently, a de facto, autonomous ‘Ezdixan’ region that includes Sinjar in the disputed area, as foreseen by Article 105 of the Iraqi constitution, must be established. We must fight for this because there is no other people who have as much right to govern and defend themselves as the Yazidis,” he said.
Burç criticised Turkey’s policy of forced conversion, which he said perceives non-Muslims as a threat to national security. He further pointed to the grave consequences of Turkish airstrikes that target Sinjar, leaving residents in a position of constant vulnerability and fear. To address this issue, he called on the international community to impose a no-fly zone over Yazidi lands, ensuring a safe environment for their return and the preservation of Yazidi cultural heritage.
Burç conveyed that the Yazidi community in the Middle East is shaped by the historical and ongoing persecution of Yazidis as apostates by jihadist groups, leading to displacement during conflicts. Areas like Serekaniye (Serê Kaniyê) and Afrin (Efrîn), historically Yazidi, have become strategic targets for jihadists.
The interview touched on the failure of the Sinjar/Baghdad agreement to effectively protect the Yazidis, leaving them without recourse. Despite promises of investigation, no accountability has been imposed on those responsible for the scale of the events and the perpetrators of the genocide, said Burç. Calling for justice, he asked, “Why did the Peshmerga force retreat in the face of 2014 ISIS attack? Who gave the withdrawal instruction?”
Burç emphasised dire consequences from the historical neglect of the Yazidi cause. Excluded from the scope of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, the identity of Yazidis as a distinct religious minority was dismissed by Turkish authorities. This omission hindered the recognition and protection of Yazidi cultural rights in the region including the preservation of language, particularly Kurdish.
The Yazidi Community and Article 105 of the Iraqi Constitution
Article 105 of the Iraqi Constitution, which was adopted in 2005, is an essential legal provision that pertains to the rights of various ethno-religious groups in the country. It specifically addresses the rights of “component peoples,” including the Yazidis, to exercise self-governance in their areas.
The constitution recognises that Iraq is a diverse nation composed of various ethnicities, religions, and cultural backgrounds. Article 105 seeks to protect and preserve this rich diversity by granting minority communities the right to form regions or administrative units, where they can manage their own local affairs based on their customs and traditions.
For the Yazidi community, this constitutional provision holds immense significance. In the aftermath of the ISIS atrocities in 2014, where thousands of Yazidis were subjected to horrendous violence, slavery, and displacement, the need for self-governance and protection of their unique identity became even more apparent.
The Yazidi community, concentrated mainly in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq, has been actively seeking recognition and implementation of Article 105 to establish an autonomous region.