Azzaman.com – 2008-07-08 00:22:24
BAGHDAD (July 4, 2008) — Iraqi minorities, namely Yazidis, Shebeks and Mandeans have paid dearly in blood in the violence that engulfed Iraq in the aftermath of US occupation of the country, the Human Rights Ministry said.
The ministry’s spokesman, Hamza Kamel, said of the three communities the Shebeks have suffered the most.
The Shebeks, a secretive Iraqi community, little known outside the country, are reportedly Kurdish in ethnicity. But contrary to the Kurds, who are Sunni Muslims, the Shebeks are predominantly Shiites.
Unlike Iraqi Christians, the Shebeks’ plight has gone unnoticed, attracting little attention from the outside world.
They live in an area surrounded by Sunni Arabs and Kurds. As Shiites, they have frequently been the target of bloody reprisal attacks.
Their exact numbers are not known. In previous Iraqi counts many of them were forced to declare they are Arabs. Under Kurdish counts they are forced to declare they are Kurds. Unofficial Iraqi counts put their numbers at 80,000.
According to Kamel, more than 500 Shebeks have been killed in the years since the US invasion of 2003 and more than 3,000 families have been forced to flee.
The Yazidis, another secretive Iraqi sect, are not Muslims. They still follow an ancient faith prevalent in the area before the advent of both Christianity and Islam.
Throughout centuries, the community has resisted massive oppression to convert. Called ‘devil worshippers’ by their neighbors their killing is justified in the eyes of Islamic fanatics.
In one incident in the northern Province of Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital, 311 Yazidis were killed and thousands injured and maimed. In another bloody incident, gunmen murdered 24 others.
Both the Yazidis and Shebeks are under extreme pressure from neighboring communities particularly the Kurds and militant Sunni Arabs.
Kamel the ministry’s spokesman said he lacked exact figures on the numbers of Yazidis who have been killed or made homeless.
Analysts say the Yazidis must have borne the brunt of the violence that swept Iraq with the coming of the Americans.
The Mandeans, another ancient, but dwindling Iraqi community, have lost 127 people, said Kamel.
Kamel said US troops have killed 32 other Mandeans, but he declined to say how.
Most of Iraqi Mandeans have fled the country. Even the Kurdish north, which is relatively quiet, was not found to be ‘a safe haven’ for the community, Kamel said.
He said 300 families have fled the Kurdish north and that there were currently 10,000 Mandeans in Syria and 3,500 in Jordan.
Iraqi Christians, though grabbing most publicity as victims of violence, have lost 174 people. Iraqi Christian population is estimated at more than 1 million, more than double other minorities put together.
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