In recent past, more people have been killed in the name of religion than for any other thing in the world. Religion has become a symbol of death, terror and agony. Subsequently, a recent Pew Research “Changing U.S. Religious Landscape” shows the decline of religious affiliation in the United States. The study finds there are more adults who consider themselves ‘unaffiliated’ with any other form of religion than those who subscribe to a certain faith. This bludgeoning disaffection and disenchantment is partly the product of what we witness in the world around us – terror in the name of religion.
“Humanitarian crises fuelled by waves of terror, intimidation, and violence have engulfed an alarming number of countries over the past year”, maintains Commissioner Dr Katrina Lantos Swett of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).
In its 2015 annual report the USCIRF catalogues the horrors of religious led terror groups and their affiliates affecting millions of lives around the world. This axis of death and destruction of sheer human lives continues to haunt innocent children, women and men of all faiths around the world.
Kurdistan refers to a geographical area in Middle-East of which the residents are predominantly Kurdish people. The land of Kurdistan- has been divided between four countries Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria.
In Iran, the majority of the population are Persian, In Iraq and Syria Arab, and in Turkey Turks. This makes Kurdish people fall into the category of ethnic minorities in all these countries. As an ethnic minority, Kurdish people have been completely marginalised and excluded from any sort of social and political power. Furthermore, for centuries, the central governments of Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria have put a great effort to ethnically cleanse out Kurdish people. Not only the central governments, but also the other socio-political dominant powers within these countries have been institutionally discriminated Kurds.
All the social and cultural institutions and powers including education, media, military and political forces have been recruited to ethnically cleanse Kurdish people in Middle-East. Let us not forget that we are talking about a population of 40 million Kurdish people which is a fact that makes it more and more difficult for the oppressors to deny their human rights as an ethnic minority. However, during the history of Middle-East, the central governments have shown no hesitation in using all sorts of actions, although against the very fundamental principles of human rights, to oppress and marginalise Kurdish people. These include military attacks on unarmed people and massively executing innocent people in different historical periods. To name a few, the Anfal campaign which was led by Saddam Hussein in Iraq was particularly aimed to cleanse out Kurdish ethnicity. The Anfal campaign began in 1986 and lasted until 1989; it included the use of ground offensives, aerial bombing systematic destruction of settlement mass deportation, firing squads and chemical warfare which earned al-Majid the nickname of “Chemical Ali”. Thousands of civilians were killed during the anti-insurgent campaigns stretching from the spring of 1987 through the fall of 1988. The attacks were part of a long-standing campaign that destroyed approximately 4,500 Kurdish and at least 31 Assyrian villages in areas of northern Iraq and displaced at least a million of the country’s estimated 3.5 million Kurdish population.
Leader of the Central Council of Yezidis in Germany, Telim Tolan formed a task force with a delegation of doctors from the association “Kurdish Doctors in Germany” and a ZDF (German public TV station) camera team, travelling through the refugee camps in South Kurdistan since 18th August 2014. On behalf of the leading commission of Yezidi organizations, Tolan collects information on the current status in Northern Iraq.
After having seen touching but somewhat reassuring images in the Turkish part of Kurdistan, the task force moved on to South Kurdistan where they observed a dramatic change in the situation. Contrary to what is reported by some bigger media representatives or relief agencies, the situation in Northern Iraq is a disaster. Refugees with just enough food to stay alive and some form of shelter are considered lucky.
Telim Tolan continued his journey together with Kovan Khanki, Yezidi lectuerer at the University of Dohuk. On 20thAugust they arrived in Derebun, a village 10kms to the east of Zakho, currently accomodating 45,000 refugees. 40,000 of those are living in a camp that has already exhausted all its capacities. The other 5,000 are living on the streets. Deeply concerned about these suffering human beings, the task force moved on to Xanik where they saw another 65,000 refugees camping on the streets, in schools, and abandoned buildings or construction sights. The journey on the next day to Shariya, a small place with about 25,000 refugees could only yield a repetition of these images. Meetings with the refugees were intense and the stories they heard in every place were gruesome. Surely, Tolan and Khanki would have seen similar images in many other places of South Kurdistan.