News / Middle East

Religious Minorities Find Sanctuary in Kurdistan

Religious Minorities Find Sanctuary in Kurdistani
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Henry Ridgwell
November 13, 2012 3:45 PM
For decades, religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq suffered persecution and violence, forcing tens of thousands to flee. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA that in the northern autonomous region of Kurdistan, many religious minorities - most with ancient roots - say their numbers are now increasing thanks to improving stability and legislation to protect minority rights.
Henry Ridgwell
For decades, religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq suffered persecution and violence, forcing tens of thousands to flee. But in the northern autonomous region of Kurdistan, many religious minorities - most with ancient roots - say their numbers are now increasing thanks to improving stability and legislation to protect minority rights. 
 
In the valley of Lalesh, Yezidi worshippers were seen recently on the grounds of their shrine deep in the mountains of Kurdistan.  In the cool dusk, a temple priest lit hundreds of candles across the complex, illuminating the ancient buildings and their striking conical stone roofs.
 
At some point in life, every follower of the Yezidi faith is supposed to make a pilgrimage here.
 
Kurdish Areas of Turkey, Iran, Syria and IraqKurdish Areas of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq
x
Kurdish Areas of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq
Kurdish Areas of Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq
Long unfairly stigmatized as "devil worshippers" by their Muslim and Christian neighbors, Iraq’s half-million strong Yezidi minority suffered some of the worst sectarian attacks after the fall of President Saddam Hussein in 2003. 
 
Now under the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, the pilgrims are returning. The Yezidis have their own minister in government.
 
“Before we were not free to pray and could not visit here easily," said Lokman Suleiman, a local Yezidi teacher. "Now we can. The Kurdistan government is not only good for us, it is good for all people. The sun now rises over a Kurdistan of many colors, free and proud.”
 
Christian revival 
 
Like the Yezidis, Iraqi Christians were targeted by Sunni and Shi'ite militants after Saddam Hussein's ouster.
 
Down in the heat of Erbil city, Father Aesha Dawoud leads an Assyrian church in a suburb of the Kurdistan capital.
 
“Now our churches and our holy places are honored and respected by the people who live around us,” said Father Aesha. “In celebration and in peace, people come here. The people of this city guard our places of worship.”
 
There were tens of thousands of Christians living in cities like Baghdad and Basra in southern Iraq. The majority have fled - some overseas, many to Kurdistan.
 
Father Aesha said his congregation would support an independent Kurdish state.
 
“If the situation is like now, if they don’t change things for us, then yes we would support the Kurds,” he said.
 
Many Christians have settled in the town of Ainkawa outside Erbil.
 
Ragat Hana Yousef moved to Ainkawa from Baghdad after his liquor store there was bombed in 2005.
 
"Kurdistan is different from the rest of Iraq because now everyone is free to speak," he said. "There is more democracy and what’s most important, it is safe.”
 
Nearby, a Kurdish barber - who gave only his first name, Mohamed - said the people in Kurdistan should unite with the Kurds who now control a large part of Syria.
 
“It is better for one people to live in one house, not be divided in two,” he said.
 

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid