This week, the New York Times described the plight of "400,000 Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion with roots in Muslim and Zoroastrian traditions [and] have been forced to flee their enclaves" in Iraqi Kurdistan by ISIS, the violent jihadis also styled the "Islamic State." The break with their longtime Muslim neighbors was violent and traumatic.
Yvo Fitzherbert describes a different Yazidi experience, by way of interviews conducted in Turkey where he lives. Xal İsmail Ferhad, one of the refugees, concurs in horror at betrayal by his long time neighbors.
But the same man gushes about the generosity of other Kurds (mostly Muslims) who saved many lives. Though the peshmerga -- the troops of the Iraqi Kurdish semi-autonomous government -- were brushed aside by ISIS, Kurdish guerrillas of the YPG (People Defense Unit) and YPJ (Women’s Defense Unit) won an escape corridor for some 100,000 Yezidis marooned on barren Senjar Mountain.
Fitzherbert describes these forces as thriving in Rojava (literally, ‘Western Kurdistan’) where three cantons have adopted a "grassroots democratic model" as a consequence of a libertarian socialist evolution led by the imprisoned Kurdish guerrilla leader Abdullah Öcalan.
Perhaps from tragedy something wonderful springs. All reads quite rosy, doesn't it?
Reading these two contrasting articles, what I felt was humility. I have almost no idea what is going on in that remote part of the world. I know the fog of war obscures it. I know human beings are suffering. And I also know that, living in a state and a civilization that has played a role in turning these peoples' lives upside down, I should at least try to understand and try to prevent our rulers from making things worse!
I have adopted the New York Times transliteration of the label "Yazidi" and the place "Senjar" to make this post read slightly more coherently. These authors use different spellings.