The persecution of the Yazidis continues as Turkey’s war in Northern Syria pushes into Iraq. Ben Norman of Unite explains the significance of Turkeys assassination of Yazidi military leader Zardasht ShingalI and why this crime represents a continuation of the so-called Islamic States genocidal assault on the Yazidi people.
Turkey continues the genocidal work of ISIS
The Freedom for Öcalan campaign has always been as much about the ideas of Abdullah Öcalan and the Kurdish liberation struggle as it is about the man himself. Those ideas and the democratic revolution they’ve inspired are under sustained attack from Turkey which this week murdered Zardasht ShingalI, Commander of the Yazidi people’s defence forces in Iraq.
The airstrike, which killed at least four members of the Şengal Resistance Units (YBS), hasn’t received the media attention of the US assassination of Qassem Suleimani, but it is no less significant. The attack not only escalates Turkey’s war further into Iraq but shows how Turkey and the jihadi forces it controls are continuing the genocidal work of ISIS by targeting the Yazidi religious minority across the region.
Persecution of Yazidis and the massacre of Sinjar
The Yazidis, followers of an ancient religion which pre-dates the Islamic Conquests, are spread across Northern Syria and Iraq. In a systematic campaign of terror, over 5,000 Yazidis were massacred and as many as 10,000 women and children were enslaved at the height of ISIS’ rampage through Iraq in the summer of 2014.
As Iraqi federal forces fell back towards Mosel as many as 50,000 Yazidis fled to the mountainside of Şengal where they were besieged by the ISIS death squads stalking the villages below. That siege was only broken by fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the People’s Defence Units (YPG) who evacuated over 35,000 Yazidis into the relative safety of Rojava.
Yazidi forces join the fight against ISIS
After Şengal the Yazidi-led YBS fought alongside Kurdish, Arabic and Assyrian forces in the coalition which finally defeated ISIS in 2019.
“We are Yazidis, with courage, but we were without organization and without defence forces. We are organized today. Today our mothers, our children rest their heads and sleep.”Zardasht ShingalI – leader of the YBS forces during the liberation of Raqqa 2017
A vital part of the Rojava Revolution
The Yazidi people’s contribution to the Rojava revolution goes beyond defeating ISIS. They are an integral part of the inclusive system of direct, local democracy with which the autonomous administration is enfranchising Kurdish, Arabic, Yazidi, Syriac and Turkman people alike; all while introducing gender equality and coordinating the reconstruction of infrastructure and civil society. It is this which marks the Yazidis out for attack once again. As Patrick Cockburn has reported, when ISIS fighters were re-armed under the Turkish flag for the invasion of Afrin in 2018 they immediately targeted Yazidi villages in a campaign of forced conversions, cultural genocide and the destruction of sacred shrines and temples. Further and systematic persecution of Yazidis.
Through air and drone strikes Turkey continues to target and kill Kurdish and Yazidi liberation leaders alike. With the murder of Zardasht ShingalI, there can be no doubt that destroying the multi-ethnic, multi-confessional democratic society he fought is Turkey’s true aim in this war. It is the duty of every trade unionist and socialist to stand in its defence.
How can you help the campaign?
With growing support in the trade union movement, devolved governments and the Parliamentary Labour Party, the Freedom for Ocalan campaign is calling on trade unionists and activists to support the many local campaigns now running throughout the UK and Europe.
If you’re a member of a trade union it’s critical you support us by requesting your branch, regional or national trade union affiliate now.
With trade union support in the last twelve months we’ve been able to;
- Have the privilege of being the international solidarity theme for the 2018 Durham Miners Gala and had a major presence at this years Tolpuddle Martyrs festival 2019
- Send delegations to Turkey and Kurdistan and support local trade unions
- Successfully lobby the devolved government of Wales to support the goals of the campaign
- Run conferences in the House of Lords and City Hall London