On the 73rd attempt to exterminate us, I wept with my Yazidi ancestors

by Ronya Othmann    


August 2014, I spent the day in front of the television with my parents in the living room, sitting on my bed watching videos on youtube, spending hours reading on the websites of German, English and Kurdish newspapers. On all the channels, I saw the same pictures.

I will never forget what I saw on the third of August 2014.

I saw women dressed like my grandmother, my aunt, my cousins, men like my grandfather, father, uncle. I saw them running in the mountains. Singal birindar e, they were running for their lives. It was midsummer. The sun was burning. Two reporters of the Kurdish television Rudaw tried to courageously report the tragedy but found themselves crying instead. “There have been 72 genocide campaigns on the Ezidis" Vian Dakhil, a Yezidi deputy of the Iraqi parliament exclaimed on the podium he broke down and cried on, "and now it is being repeated in the 21st century."

"We are being slaughtered. We are being exterminated. An entire religon is being exterminated from the face of the Earth. Brothers, I appeal to you in the name of humanity to save us!" He wept. I wept with him.   

I must think of my grandmother, whose father was murdered because he was Yezidi. I must think of my family, who fled their village at night because it was surrounded by fanatics who wanted to kill them.

Children, the old and the sick were dying of thirst in In the Singal mountains. Elderly men and women who couldn't escape were killed. Younger women and children were captured, the children used as child soldiers, the women sold as slaves for Islamic State fighters. Thousands of women who carry the names of my sister, my cousin, my grandmother were shackled to be bought and sold on the market.

You might not have been able to see it from the outside, but after the 3rd of August, my life changed forever. Yes my life in Germany went on, and it had to,  but something broke inside, something which can't be fixed.

In June 2017 I went to visit my family in Iraqi Kurdistan. They were the side of my family which were still villagers in the Singal mountains when IS invaded on the 3rd of August. They survived. But until today they are refugees. They haven't been able to return home, and even though IS has been defeated today, Singal is not safe. Other militias roam the valleys and streets, and many Yezidi's can't trust the likes of al-Hashd al Shabi (Popular Mobilization Fronts), or the president of Turkey, Mr Erdogan, whom every other day threatens the region of Singal with military action.

When I was there I told my family I would like to visit Singal. They asked me what I was in search of, especially when everything has been destroyed and the booby traps have yet to be cleared. 

The genocide isn't over yet. Iraqi Kurdistan is not yet a safe place for Yezidi people. There are still more than 2000 Yezidi's held in captivity by IS.

I visited families who are still living under terrible conditions in Camp Arabt near Sulaymaniyah. I saw people who lost half of there families: one boy and his mother were the only two of their household who survived. I heard so many terrible stories, I took them all to heart. I wondered about the other stories, there were people I met who had stopped talking in 2014. They have no words anymore for what they have seen and what was done to them. Genocide is - four years after IS came to Singal - ongoing, it is not over even if the world seems to have forgotten.