Editorial: Armenians — 1915, Yazidis — 2015


Edmond Azadian

Edmond Azadian

By Edmond Y. Azadian

One hundred years have elapsed since an entire nation was uprooted from its historic lands, exterminated and/or dispersed around the globe, yet the world has learned nothing. The same brutality, the same vicious campaign that was waged against the Armenians, today are being waged against Yazidis in Iraq. Pope Francis accused the world of indifference which encouraged the perpetrators of those crimes a century ago. Today, are we surprised that Yazidis meet the same indifference in their hour of need? At best, some lip service is offered by the powers who could halt these atrocities if they really wanted to.

The same criminal minds and bloody hands that exterminated 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 are in action today, in the year 2015, destroying and dispersing the Yazidi minority in Iraq. The beheadings are committed by the Islamic State (or ISIS/ISIL) but the main culprits are Turkish leaders who helped create the terror group and trained and armed them in front of the world. ISIS is an evil force to spread mayhem to accommodate Ankara’s political designs on controlling the Middle East.

The Turkish leaders used ISIS to destroy Kessab’s thriving Armenian life in Syria, to desecrate the Genocide memorial in Der Zor and threaten organized Armenian life in Aleppo.

A political charade is being played at the expense of peaceful populations in the region. It defies logic that the all-powerful US forces were able to pulverize the organized army of Iraq in a matter of a few days and yet cannot contain the ragtag army constituting ISIS, which has already occupied a swathe of territory as large as Great Britain on the landmass of Iraq and Syria.

The US has been cajoling the Turkish government to earnestly confront IS and allow the US war planes to use Incirlik Airbase for air strikes, but Ankara has been dragging its feet.

When Washington halfheartedly consented to allow Turkey to establish a no-fly zone in Syria, Ankara relented. It feigned that it has joined the US and its allies to fight IS, while in reality, it began to fight its Kurdish foes, which also happen to be the only combatants successfully facing down IS.

The idea of a no-fly zone is Turkey’s plan to amputate Syria’s territory. Already, the French Colonial powers had ceded in 1938 the Hatay region of Syria, mostly populated by Arabs and Armenians, to Turkey, just as the same powers gave Cilicia to the latter, leaving the Armenian civilian population to the tender mercies of marauding Kemalist forces. Syria has never accepted the loss of Hatay.

Last week, during an exclusive interview with the BBC, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu angrily blamed the news sources which were revealing the truth — that Turkey was tending to its own agenda in fighting the Kurds and only going through the motions of fighting IS. The journalists revealed that as of the date of the interview, Turkey had carried out 400 air strikes against Kurdish forces in Quandil mountains in Iraq and had carried one single raid against IS.

Of course, this dilly-dallying will embolden ISIS to continue its carnage.

While the rape and murder of Yazidi women was taking place unabated, only the plight of the American hostage jolted the conscience of the US public. Indeed, Kayla Mueller had been used as a sex slave for Abu Bakr, the self-styled caliph of the IS nation, before being murdered.

The Wall Street Journal, in its August 14 edition, brought to light the horrendous atrocities committed against the Yazidis: “ISIS has an elaborate, organized structure for its sexual slave trade, much like it developed an infrastructure for basic services in the territories it has claimed. The New York Times reported this week that ISIS planned to establish a sex market before its attack on Iraqi Yazidis on Mount Sinjar last August. ISIS considers the sexual use and abuse of Yazidi women as permitted under Islam because they are ‘infidels.’”

The same exact logic was used by the Turkish government 100 years ago to rape Armenian women and confiscate Armenian properties.

Further down, the Wall Street Journal article continues, “And while many countries have denounced ISIS and its beheadings, mass executions and other horrific acts, little effort has been devoted to rescuing women taken as its sexual slaves.”

The US air raids and Turkish mock air raids had not made a dent on ISIS’ resolve to maintain occupied territory. Only the war-hardened Kurdish Pesh Mergas’ fight yielded results and ISIS was forced to evacuate some territory in Iraq. What the Yazidis are discovering in those recaptured territories are mass graves, similar to the ones that exist to this day in the sands of Der Zor desert.

Life is too dangerous for the Yazidis and Christians in Iraq while ISIS forces are at large. They have decided to move to other countries. Some families have come to settle in Armenia, where a thriving Yazidi community has existed for decades.

Yazidis, numbering fewer than 1 million worldwide, are believed to be an offshoot of Kurds (though Yazidis themselves disagree) with their particular religion, which is a blend of pre-Christian, Sufi, Muslim and various monotheistic traditions. It is estimated that 40 to 50 million Kurds live in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. Both communities have been victims of persecution in those countries on and off, with shifting policies. The only place where the Kurds and Yazidis have found safe haven has been Armenia. Even during the Soviet period, they developed their culture through publications and broadcasting. The Yazidi community in Armenia is 40,000 strong, constituting 1.3 percent of the country’s population.

The president of the World Union of Yazidis Aziz Tamoyan said recently at a press conference in Yerevan that he is grateful to President Serge Sargisian and Armenia’s other officials who have raised the issue of the Yazidi genocide in northern Iraq in international venues for more than a year.

“Only the president of Armenia has supported us. He took to the floor of international organizations and raised the issue of the Yazidis. It is already a year that Yazidis in northern Iraq have been subject to a genocide but the international community and the world powers do not undertake any steps,” added Tamoyan.

By empathizing with the other victims of genocide, we can elevate our tragedy to the level of universal pain.

Some Armenians and Jews, in grieving their tragic pasts, become inward looking and insensitive to the pain of others, resorting also to comparisons, such as our pain is greater than yours, or our martyrs were more valuable than yours. However, if we don’t care about the tragedies of other ethnic groups, why should they bother to embrace and sympathize with our pain?

In the Yazidis’ case, Armenians have gone out of their shell to embrace another group in agony.

Incidentally, the Yazidis have laid the foundation of an imposing temple in the town of Aknalich in Armenia.

Human nature will not change. One hundred years later, the Turks are the same Turks that perpetrated mass atrocities, only this time with more modern weaponry.

If it is the destiny of weaker nations to become victims of political games, the world community cannot be comforted that by 2115, another genocide will be avoided.