How Syria’s Yazidi community sees an opportunity to revive its identity on the tails of rising Kurdish power in the country’s northeast.
Yazidis Benefit From Kurdish Gains in Northeast Syria
AMUDA, Syria — “Some years ago I tried to open a bus company and call it Roj, which in Kurdish means sun,” said Adnan Ammo, a 50-year-old farmer from Merkeb. “I was summoned by political security for a suspected connection with Roj TV [one of the satellite channels affiliated to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)]. Even after I explained to them that I am Yazidi and we venerate the sun, they forced me to change the name. I proposed Judi, the name of my son, but that was rejected too, as it’s a Kurdish name. In the end we had to shut down the activity.”
The followers of the Yazidi religion have been historically discriminated against on both ethnic and religious grounds, being part of a Kurdish pre-Islamic sect. The Yazidi faith is currently exposed to the risk of extinction, as expatriates tend to neglect its traditions and a growing number of Yazidis are leaving Syria to escape radical Islamists. On the other hand, most Kurdish parties seem to bank on the revitalization of the Yazidi identity in order to back historical land claims and belittle the Islamization of Kurds, as part of an opposition to Islamist brigades.