Genocide and aftermath for Yazidi women -1-
Riham Heco, a coordinating member of the Yazidi Free Women's Movement (TAJÊ), spoke to NuJINHA about what Yazidi women had faced during the genocide and how they have been struggling after the genocide.
Shengal- On August 3, 2014, ISIS committed a genocide against the Yazidi community. Eight years have passed since the genocide; however, the deep wounds caused by the genocide are still fresh and bleeding. The genocide caused an irreversible change in the Yazidi community. This change was led by the Yazidi women, who faced the tyranny of ISIS. Instead of mourning, they preferred to write the history of resistance. In this article series consisting of three articles, we share our interview with Riham Heco, a coordinating member of the Yazidi Free Women's Movement (TAJÊ), about what Yazidi women had faced during the genocide and how they have been struggling after the genocide. The first article of this articles series is about the edicts faced by the Yazidi community. The second article focuses on how the Yazidi women’s organization to defend themselves. The final article focuses on the struggle of the Yazidi women in the international arena.
The Yazidis and Kurds share the same fate
The history of the Yazidis and Kurds is full of genocides and massacres. They have faced genocides massacres for their religious and identity. The aim of the genocides and massacres was to annihilate or integrate the faith of the Yazidis and the national identity of the Kurds. Actually, the Yazidis and Kurds share the same fate. The fate of Yazidis and Kurds was united over women because women were first targeted in every genocide and massacre.
“We will never give up speaking out about the edicts”
Riham Heco started her speech by giving information about the edicts and massacres faced by the Yazidi community. “We have a history full of edicts and sufferings. We will never give up speaking out about the edicts and massacres committed against our community. The Yazidi mothers used to tell stories and sing lullabies about edicts and massacres to help their babies go to sleep. All of us listened to these songs and lullabies from our mothers. I never forget the lullaby sang by mother to help my brother go to sleep. Now, I sing the same lullaby for my children. We still marks of these edicts and massacres and the resistance against them. The Yazidis never bow down despite the edicts and massacres faced by them. The stories told us by our mothers were about how the Yazidi villages were destroyed, and the Yazidi women and children were seen as the spoils of war. There were no witnesses to the edicts before the 74th edict (The genocide committed by ISIS against the Yazidis), or if there were, they always preferred to remain silent. The 74th edict was like the combination of all edicts. During the last edict, our villages were also destroyed, women and children were killed and abducted and men were massacred. We do not have a written history; our history was written by those who committed these edicts against us. For this reason, the written history is not our history.”
The first target is women
Speaking about the edicts committed against their community, Riham Heco said, “According to official documents, the Yazidi community has been subjected to 73 or 74 edicts until now. But more than 150 edicts have been committed against the Yazidi community but they were not written or hidden in the dusty archive of the Ottoman Empire. If we calculate the edicts committed against the Yazidi community by the Safavids, Kurdish Mirs and Arabs, the number of edicts can be more than 196. Our mothers always told us that the Yazidi community had resisted every edict. They resisted from 630 to 1918 to protect Yazidism. According to the received information, 90% of Yazidis were forcibly converted to Islam by the Ottoman Empire and the Safavid dynasty. The edicts took place across Kurdistan, from the border of Azerbaijan to the border of Armenia, Damascus and Aleppo.”
“Yazidi women suffered the most from each edict”
“The history of edicts is also the history of women,” Riham Heco said that all Yazidi women should know their history.
“Yazidi women suffered the most from each edict. They were taken captive as the spoils of war. Beautiful Yazidi women were given to Sultans as a present and other women were used as maids in the palaces. In the last edict, the Yazidi women faced the same fate. But the Yazidi women also resisted each edict. The resistance of Yazidi women in the edicts is a legendary. For instance, Zerifa Ose led the Yazidi people to rise up against the Ottoman Empire when the Ottoman forces tried to attack the Bekira village of Shengal. Many women like her resisted during edicts.”
“Women tried to protect themselves from the atrocity of ISIS”
Speaking about the last edict committed by ISIS against them on August 3, 2014, Riham Heco said, “During the last edict, the Yazidi women tried to protect themselves again. For instance, Cîlan was a young woman abducted by ISIS. She killed herself by cutting the radial artery of the wrist so that ISIS could not sell her in the slave markets. Dozens women, who were abducted by ISIS told ISIS members that they were married even though they were single. Yazidi mothers gave their children to these young women so that they would not be sold in the slave markets. They used many methods to protect themselves from the atrocity of ISIS.”
First organization of the Yazidi people
Riham Heco told us that the Yazidis founded an organization to protect themselves against a possible attack against them, “The Yazidi Freedom and Democracy Movement (Tevgera Demokrasî û Azadîyê-TEVDA) was founded by the Yazidi people before the genocide committed against them by ISIS. The movement knew that a genocide would be committed against the Yazidi community or attacks would be carried out against them. TEVDA carried out activities in order to warn the Yazidi community about a possible attack against them. The members of the movement visited all Yazidi villages and warned them. Still many Yazidi families talk about the activities and warns of the movement. Thanks to the activities and warns of the movement, many families fled to mountains before ISIS attacked them. TEVDA supported the HPG-YJA-Star to protect Shengal.”
The establishment of the Yazidi Freedom and Democracy Movement was announced at the congress held in Mosul on April 20, 2004 by the Yazidi community. Martyr Said Hesen was elected as the first president of the movement. In 2017, the name of the movement changed into Yazidi Freedom and Democracy Party (PADÊ) at the second congress of the TEVDA. The co-presidency system was adopted and Martyr Said Hesen and Zehra İsmail were elected as the co-chairs of the party. In 2017, the party was officially recognized in Iraq.
The Êzîdxan Women's Units (YJŞ)
After a humanitarian corridor was opened for the civilians, HPG-YJA-Star and YPG-YPJ forces went to the mountains of Shengal to defend the city. Thousands of people, who went to Rojava through the humanitarian corridor, were settled in the Newroz Camp. Dozens of young women in the camp joined the YPJ-YJA-Star and returned to the mountains of Shengal to fight ISIS. Their participation in the defense forces was the first step to form their own defense units. The Yazidi women formed their own defense units named the Êzîdxan Women's Units (YJŞ) to fight ISIS and protect their people.
“Women learned how to protect themselves”
Riham Heco talked about how the Yazidi women decided to form their defense units and said:
“We went everywhere to fight ISIS. All Yazidi women learned how to use weapons. Not only the young women but also mothers and many Yazidi women learned how to protect themselves and their community. Now, they can defend themselves and their people against a possible attack on Shengal.”
In February 2016, the Yazidi women held their first congress and they formed their first defense units, YJŞ. Martyr Berivan Şengalî was the first fighter of the YJŞ and Berivan Arin was the first fighter of the YJŞ, who lost her life while fighting ISIS.
Tomorrow: Change of Yazidi women in the mountains of Shengal