Lately I've been both traveling and working through a complex part of my book manuscript, which means I haven't been thinking original thoughts about contemporary Middle Eastern events or passing on interesting scholarship about Middle Eastern history and culture. I still read, though! Here is some interesting information on Saddam Hussein's policy towards the Yezidis
Ethnically, Yazidis are often identified as Kurds, the minority group that semi-autonomously governs a chunk of
northeastern Iraq (most other Iraqis are ethnically Arab). Most Yazidis
do consider themselves Kurds, according to Sebastian Maisel, a professor at Grand Valley State University who has conducted extensive fieldwork among Yazidis.
But Iraq's Ba'athist government disagreed. Beginning around 1975, they
labeled them an Arab offshoot, according to Maisel, in order to
"distance them from the Kurdish population." The Ba'athist government
decreed that Yazidis were descendants of Yazid bin Mu'awiya, the ancient
caliph whom Shia Muslims remember ruefully as the murderer of the (in
their view) rightful Caliph Husayn bin'Ali after Muhammed's death. This
would make the Yazidis ethnically Arab — it would also alienate them
from Shia Muslims, who are the Iraqi majority, and perhaps make Yazidis
more reliant on the Sunni Ba'athist government.
The goal, according to Maisel, was to separate the Yazidis from the
Kurds, who wanted political autonomy, and make them loyal to Arab Iraq.
But it did this in a truly heavy-handed and brutal way. During the '70s
and '80s, Saddam Hussein forcefully relocated Yazidis from their
traditional home near the Sinjar mountains to cinderblock villages in
poorly-resourced areas, gave them Arabic names, and forced them to speak
Arabic and not Kurdish.
Labels: History, Iraq, Kurds, Yezidis