photo: Eddy van Wessel

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Bibles or Qurans, don't force them on the scarred Yezidis

Evangelical Christians have offered Bibles to internally displaced Kurdish Yezidis in aid camps in Iraqi Kurdistan, asking the refugees to convert to Christianity in order to start a new life in the West.

Some went in under the guise of aid workers, while others had only Bibles and prayers on offer. Even though this shocked many observers, the alarm that Yezidi parliamentarian Vian Dakhil raised was mainly followed by a resounding silence.

The only consequence so far has been an attempt by authorities to control who goes in and out of the camps by demanding a permit. This hampers the work of journalists reporting on the Yezidi issue, because a different permit now is needed for all the different camps.

Yet the permit-system does not deal with the moral issue: how can anyone who knows what the Yezidis suffered in the hands of radical Islamists of ISIS, and how precious their already threatened religion is to them, confront them with conversion?

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Freeing Yezidi women from ISIS’ clutches

Almost a year after ISIS overtook the Yezidi area of Sinjar and kidnapped thousands, the main way to free those still in the jihadists’ clutches is by buying them back through middlemen.

Since they were taken by ISIS last August as slaves and forced to convert to Islam, some 1,700 Yezidis have managed to escape. Many of them were able to run away, and with the help of locals, found their way out of the caliphate.

Some were helped by Kurdish aid workers who paid locals to help the girls escape. But in the past months, fewer and fewer women and girls were able to escape in this way. More and more, they have had to be rescued, or their freedom has had to be bought.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Kurdistan Paintings to show the world what ISIS did to Iraq

His paintings show gruesome scenes of men being slaughtered and women raped; of fighters choosing and buying women that are undressed in front of them. Yezidi painter Ammar Salim, 31, is working on a project to tell the world what ISIS has done to his people.

In a series of nine canvasses, he paints a realistic picture of the tragedy that befell the Yezidi minority in Iraqi Kurdistan at the hands of ISIS in a style reminiscent of some European painters of the Middle Ages, who also packed their paintings with characters and scenes.

“I want to connect all that happened, to explain about the Yezidi genocide,” he said, walking from one painting to another in the small motel room in the Kurdish city of Duhok that is now his studio.

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Can refugees save Kurdistan's economy?

Last year, one of the main factors causing the recession was the fight between the governments in Erbil and Baghdad, which lead to the Kurdistan Region not receiving its part of the national Iraqi budget. Kurdish civil servants were not paid for months and government projects were halted.

In this climate, the money that IDPs brought in became one of the main factors preventing the economy from a complete collapse. Like in Lebanon, the refugees and IDPs added value to the economy.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Lion Cubs of the caliphate: a ticking time bomb

The capture of Tal Abyad, or Gire Spi in Kurdish, last week by Kurdish forces caused thousands of residents to flee the strategic border town.

The exodus has given the world its first chance to really appreciate the scary effects ISIS has on civilians in the areas under its rule.

Journalists rarely make contact with people living in ISIS territories. They must depend mainly on those who fled ISIS and brought back the stories of its harsh rule by Sharia law and the way the radicals indoctrinate children.


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Sunday, June 21, 2015

Kurdish FGM campaign seen as global model

The media campaign that helped lead to the 2011 ban on female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Kurdistan Region is being looked to as an example elsewhere in the region, according to the anti-FGM activist behind the plan.

Thomas von der Osten-Sacken, general manager of the German-Iraqi NGO Wadi, told Rudaw the Kurdish FGM campaign is now being copied in neighboring Iran.

“People look now at Kurdistan as an example. Our Kurdish material is being copied into Farsi. The awareness material is translated and gets used officially. The Stop-FGM-Iran homepage is online,” he said.

Read the whole story here

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

KRG needs policy for Kurds who return from ISIS

Of the 500 Kurds that are known to have joined the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, 50 have returned to Iraqi Kurdistan at some stage and for various reasons.


Upon returning, they were questioned by the Kurdish security police. Some remain in jail, some were released and being watched, according to the Ministry of Religion in the Kurdistan region’s capital of Erbil has said.


Elsewhere in the world, returnees from ISIS are the subject of heated discussion. In most European countries, jail awaits them if they are found guilty of membership of a terrorist organisation.

Read more here