An official in a militia organized by Iraq’s Kurdish Yazidi minority has issued a public call for Israeli assistance.
Lt. Col. Lukman Ibrahim, speaking to Al-Monitor, said the militia needs weapons and aid, and would like Israeli assistance so it can fight Islamic State, or ISIS. He said the Yazidis support Israel and fight similar enemies.
Israel has yet to respond to the Yazidi request.
The militia, with 12,000 members, was organized in August to defend against ISIS, which has persecuted and killed the minority since capturing Yazidi cities last year. Most of the fighters are untrained.
“We appeal to the Israeli government and its leader to step in and help this nation, which loves the Jewish people,” Ibrahim was quoted as saying by Al-Monitor. “We would be most grateful for the establishment of military ties — for instance, the training of fighters and the formation of joint teams. We are well aware of the circumstances the Israelis are in, and of the suffering they have endured at the hands of the Arabs ever since the establishment of their state. We, too, are suffering on account of them.”
A Yazidi doctor who lives in Germany said that Yazidis and Jews can also find common ground in both being victims of genocide.
“What happened to us is the biggest genocide since the Holocaust of the Jews in Europe,” said Dr. Mirza Dinnay, a pediatrician, told Al-Monitor. “In the Holocaust, the goal was to annihilate an entire people, the Jews. IS has a similar plan — to exterminate an entire people, the Yazidis.”
‘We are being slaughtered’
The Yazidi commander’s call echoed the pleas of a Yazidi father in Jerusalem, whose family was trapped by IS on Mt. Sinjar over the summer.
“I ask, in my name, and in the name of the Yazidis, that Israel and Europe help us against the Islamic State,” he said to the Times of Israel in August. “I ask that the State of Israel protect us from the Islamists, tens of thousands of people, my family alone is 20 people. Put it on Facebook, put it on YouTube.”
“I wish Netanyahu would let us live here,” he added. “I wish he would give the Yazidi some land.”
Yazidis are monotheists who follow an ancient syncretic Kurdish religion influenced by Zoroastrianism, Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. They number around 500,000, mostly in northern Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. Yazidis revere an archangel, Malek Taus (the Peacock Angel), whom they believe God entrusted to run the world after he refused to bow down to Adam.
Local Muslims, however, call them devil worshipers, because according to the Islamic version of the story, the angel who refused to bow down to Adam, Iblis, was cast down to hell, where he became Satan. Yazidis have long been persecuted by Muslims, and are often looked down on as uneducated and dirty. They do not let their children marry Muslims, and their society has seen high-profile honor killings of girls accused of pursuing relationships with Muslims.
The Yazidis’ tense history with Muslims makes them a prime target for the Islamic State. In August, IS issued an ultimatum to tens of thousands of people from the Yazidi community to convert to Islam, pay a religious fine and flee their homes, or face death. The UN mission in Iraq, known as UNAMI, said as many as 200,000 civilians, mostly Yazidis, fled to Mt. Sinjar, but were surrounded by militants and endangered. At least 40 children from those displaced from Sinjar were killed in the violence, UNICEF said.
During a parliamentary session in August, a Yazidi lawmaker broke down in tears as she urged the government and the international community to save her people from being massacred or starved into extinction.
“We are being slaughtered; our entire religion is being wiped off the face of the earth. I am begging you, in the name of humanity,” said Vian Dakhil.
Ties between Israel and the Kurds in general run deep. A Mossad officer named Sagi Chori was sent to help his close friend, the late iconic Kurdish leader Mulla Mustafa Barzani, manage the Kurds’ battles against the Iraqi army in the 1960s. (The partnership has been well-documented in Kurdish and Israeli media.) And reports of Israel training Kurdish commandos continue to surface. Nationalist Kurds tend to see Israel as a role model for an independent Kurdistan, a small nation surrounded by enemies and bolstered by a strategic partnership with the United States.
Israel has long developed alliances with non-Arab countries on the periphery of the Middle East. Today, that policy rests on partnerships with Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, and Caucasian and central Asian countries. Kurdistan fits perfectly into that framework.
If Kurds gain independence, they will likely open full diplomatic relations with Israel. “The Kurds are the only nation in the region that has not been filled with hatred toward Israel and America,” said Selam Saadi, chief editor of Kurdish news site Rudaw. “The way Kurds see the world is different from Arabs… Generally, Islamists are more powerful in the Arab world, they think that Islamic Sharia is the solution. However, the majority of Kurds believe in a European style of government. The problem is they don’t know how to get there. They don’t have experience.”