The Yazidi are an Arab and Kurdish religious community whose syncretic but ancient religion is linked to Zoroastrianism and ancient Mesopotamian religions. Their cultural practices are observably in Kurdish, and almost all speak Kurmanjî with the exception of the villages of Bashiqa and Bahazane, where Arabic is spoken.
They live primarily in the Nineveh Province of northern Iraq, a region once part of ancient Assyria. Additional communities in Armenia, Georgia and Syria have been in decline since the 1990s, their members having migrated to Europe, especially to Germany.
The Yazidi adhere to a branch of Iranian religions that blends elements of Mithraism, pre-Islamic Mesopotamian/Assyrian religious traditions, Christianity and Islam. They believe in God as creator of the world, which he placed under the care of seven “holy beings” or angels, the “chief” (archangel) of whom is Melek Taus, the “Peacock Angel.”
Other monotheistic religions re-cast the Peacock Angel as the unredeemed evil deity Satan, which incited centuries of persecution of the Yazidi as “devil worshippers” by followers of these religions. Persecution of Yazidis has continued in their home communities within the borders of modern Iraq, under both Saddam Hussein and fundamentalist Sunni Muslim revolutionaries.
Now, tens of thousands of members of Iraqi religious minority groups driven from their homes for fear of the jihadist group Islamic State are dying of thirst and heat on a desert mountainside in the north of the country, according to the United Nations and human rights groups. The shortage of food has forced them to hunt for wild game.
Some 40 children have already died from the heat and dehydration, the UN children’s organisation Unicef says, while upwards of 40,000 more are sheltering in the bare mountains, without food or water or access to supplies. It says 25,000 children may be stranded.
Hundreds of adults, particularly men but also women and children, are already feared to have been killed or abducted by the group, which now surrounds their hiding place. Most of the refugees, who fled their home city of Sinjar when it was seized by Islamic State at the weekend, are members of the Yazidi community. The Yazidis are an offshoot from Zoroastrianism and the “Peacock Angel” at the centre of their beliefs is associated by some Sunni Muslims with Satan.
There is Christians and Muslims among the refugees in the mountains. The number of Christians in Iraq had already declined by between a half and three-quarters since the allied invasion of 2003, and now priests are warning the religion is on the verge of extinction in the country.
Sinjar, a town in northwestern Iraq’s Ninawa Governorate on Mount Sinjar near the Syrian border was taken over by the ISIL on Sunday. Its population in 2013 was estimated at 23,023. The town is mainly inhabited by Yezidis, an ethno-religious community, representing an ancient religion that is linked to Zoroastrianism, with Arab and Assyrian minorities.
Nineveh Governorate is a governorate in northern Iraq, which contains the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh. It has an area of 37,323 square kilometres and an estimated population of 2,453,000 people in 2003. Its chief city and provincial capital is Mosul, which lies across the Tigris River from the ruins of ancient Nineveh. Tal Afar is also a major city within the region.
Nineveh was one of the oldest and greatest cities in antiquity. The area was settled as early as 6000 BC and, by 3000 BC, had become an important religious center for worship of the East Semitic (Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian) goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex, Ishtar, who is the counterpart to the Sumerian Inanna, and cognate for the Northwest Semitic Aramean goddess Astarte.
It was the largest city in the world for some fifty years until, after a bitter period of civil war in Assyria itself, it was sacked by an unusual coalition of former subject peoples, the Babylonians, Medes, Persians, Chaldeans, Scythians and Cimmerians in 612 BC.
The origin of the name Nineveh is obscure. Possibly it meant originally the seat of Ishtar, since Nina was one of the Babylonian names of that goddess. The ideogram means “house or place of fish,” and was perhaps due to popular etymology (comp. Aramaic “nuna,” denoting “fish”).
The Sinjar valley belonged to the Northern Ubaid culture. In the Sinjar plain civilizations are known to have existed many centuries earlier Halaf (6100-5500 BC), Hassuna (early sixth millennium BCE), and Ubaid (ca. 6500 to 3800 BC) culture. More than 200 sites are known.
A huge mound and wall in northeastern Syria known as Tell Hamoukar indicate an urban civilisation dating back at least 6,000 years. Archaeologists believe that Hamoukar was thriving as far back as 4000 BC and independently from Sumer.
The origin of urban settlements has generally been attributed to the riverine societies of southern Mesopotamia (in what is now southern Iraq). This is the area of ancient Sumer, where around 4000 BC the Mesopotamian cities such of Ur and Uruk emerged.
In 2007, following the discoveries at Hamoukar, some archiologists have argued that the Cradle of Civilization could have extended further up the Tigris River and included the part of northern Syria where Hamoukar is located.
Archaeological discovery suggests that civilizations advanced enough to reach the size and organizational structure that was necessary to be considered a city and could have emerged before the advent of a written language.
Previously it was believed that a system of written language was a necessary predecessor of that type of complex city. Until now, the oldest cities with developed seals and writing were thought to be Sumerian Uruk and Ubaid in southern Mesopotamia.
The evidence at Hamoukar indicates that some of the fundamental ideas behind cities—including specialization of labor, a system of laws and government, and artistic development—may have begun earlier than was previously believed.
The discovery of a large city is exciting for archaeologists. While they have found small villages and individual pieces that date much farther back than Hamoukar, nothing compares to the discovery of this size. Discoveries have been made here that have never been seen before, including materials from Hellenistic and Islamic civilizations.
Excavation by a joint Syrian-American expedition (by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities) has been conducted since 1999.
Excavation work undertaken in 2005 and 2006 has shown that this city was destroyed by warfare by around 3500 BC. – probably the earliest urban warfare attested so far in the archaeological record of the Near East. Contiuned excavations in 2008 and 2010 expand on that.
Eye Idols made of alabaster or bone have been found in Tell Hamoukar. Eye Idols have also been found in Tell Brak, ancient Nagar, a tell, or settlement mound, in the Upper Khabur area in Al-Hasakah Governorate, northeastern Syria.
Tell Brak, the biggest settlement from Syria’s Late Chalcolithic period, was occupied between the sixth and second millennia BC. At 40 metres (130 ft) in height, and an area of approximately 130 hectares (320 acres), it is one of the largest archaeological sites in northern Mesopotamia. It was taken over during the “Syrian Civil War” by the People’s Protection Units, as well as its surrounding settlements.
The Hurrians (transliteration: Ḫu-ur-ri) were a people of the Bronze Age Near East. They spoke a Hurro-Urartian language called Hurrian, and lived in Anatolia and Northern Mesopotamia. Hurrian names occur sporadically in northwestern Mesopotamia and the area of Kirkuk in modern Iraq. Their presence was attested at Nuzi, Urkesh and other sites.
The Hurrians occupied a broad arc of fertile farmland stretching from the Khabur River valley in the west to the foothills of the Zagros Mountains in the east. I. J. Gelb and E. A. Speiser believed East Semitic speaking Assyrians/Subarians had been the linguistic and ethnic substratum of northern Mesopotamia since earliest times, while Hurrians were merely late arrivals, but it has now been proven that the Semites were merely late arrivals, while the Hurrian presence reach much far back in time.
As early as Akkadian times, Hurrians are known to have lived east of the river Tigris on the northern rim of Mesopotamia, and in the Khabur Valley. The group which became Mitanni gradually moved south into Mesopotamia before the 17th century BC. It is believed that the warring Hurrian tribes and city states became united under one dynasty after the collapse of Babylon due to the Hittite sack by Mursili I and the Kassite invasion.
The Hittite conquest of Aleppo (Yamkhad), the weak middle Assyrian kings, and the internal strifes of the Hittites had created a power vacuum in upper Mesopotamia. This led to the formation of the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni (1500 BC–1300 BC., Mi-ta-an-ni/Mi-it-ta-ni), also known as Hanigalbat (Assyrian Hanigalbat, Khanigalbat cuneiform Ḫa-ni-gal-bat) or Naharin in ancient Egyptian texts.
The legendary founder of the Mitannian dynasty was a king called Kirta, who was followed by a king Shuttarna. Nothing is known about these early kings.
A Hittite fragment, probably from the time of Mursili I, mentions a “King of the Hurrians” (LUGAL ERÍN.MEŠ Hurri). This terminology was last used for King Tushratta of Mitanni, in a letter in the Amarna archives. The normal title of the king was ‘King of the Hurri-men’ (without the determinative KUR indicating a country).
Urartu (Armenian: Ուրարտու – Urartu, Assyrian: māt Urarṭu; Babylonian: Urashtu), corresponding to the biblical Kingdom of Ararat (Armenian: Արարատյան Թագավորություն) or Kingdom of Van (Armenian: Վանի Թագավորություն, Urartian: Biai, Biainili) was an Proto-Armenian (Hurro-Urartian) speaking Iron Age state that arose in that region was an Iron Age kingdom centred around Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands.
Urartian is closely related to Hurrian, a somewhat better documented language attested for an earlier, non-overlapping period, approximately from 2000 BCE to 1200 BCE (written by native speakers until about 1350 BCE). The two languages must have developed quite independently from approximately 2000 BCE onwards.
Although Urartian is not a direct continuation of any of the attested dialects of Hurrian, many of its features are best explained as innovative developments with respect to Hurrian as we know it from the preceding millennium. The closeness holds especially true of the so-called Old Hurrian dialect, known above all from Hurro-Hittite bilingual texts.
In the early 6th century BC, the Urartian Kingdom was replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty. In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in 521 or 520 BC. by the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Assyrian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in Elamite.
Singara was a strongly fortified post at the northern extremity of Mesopotamia, which for a while, as appears from coins found, was occupied by the Romans as an advanced colony against the Persians. It was the camp of legio I Parthica.
Its position, south-east of Nisibis, has not been clearly defined by ancient writers, Stephanus of Byzantium calling it a city of Arabia, near Edessa, and Ptolemy placing it on the Tigris. There can, however, be no doubt that it and the mountain near it are represented at the present day by the district of the Singar (in modern-day Iraq).
Sinjar Mountain is a single ridge of mountains located in Nineveh Governorate in northwestern Iraq. It is situated near a city of the same name (Sinjar). The mountains are mainly inhabited by Yazidis who venerate them and consider the highest to be the place where Noah’s Ark settled after the biblical flood.
On Thursday, in response to gains made by IS in Iraq, US President Barack Obama ordered airstrikes on IS targets to help protect Christians and Yazidis, a Kurdish religious sect in northern Iraq. Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said airstrikes took place to help defend Kurdish forces near Erbil, Iraq. Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece. In addition to the strikes, Obama called for humanitarian supplies to be airdropped to stranded Yazidi refugees.
But while the Islamic terror group du jour rips through Iraq – largely forcing minorities to choose its brand of strict Islam, flee, or die – observers note that it’s important to remember how ISIL has gained strength from the financial backing of United States’ allies in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar.
Elite donors of American allies in the Persian Gulf region have poured an immense amount of resources into rebel groups like IS in efforts to advance on three general goals: opposing Iran, its ally Bashar Assad and his government in Syria, and fomenting the Sunni-Shia divides in the region.
The US and NATO have been actively working to topple Assad by arming and funding the Syrian rebels since 2011. This has developed into a bloody civil war which has attracted Jihadists from all over the world. It has also created a vacuum of power which enabled groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda and Al-Nusra to organize and establish physical strongholds.
But wait, this isn’t just about Syria is it? It’s also about Iraq. Iraq is in ruins and unable to defend itself. The Bush administration and the mainstream media convinced the public that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and was planning to use them. The US invaded Iraq on these false pretenses, disbanding the Iraqi army and police, and reducing the country to rubble in an attempt to put down the resulting insurgency. The occupation of Iraq was never going to end well, and the Bush administration knew that it wouldn’t.
The United States has been tinkering in Iraq for a long, long time. In fact it was the CIA that put Saddam Hussein in power in 1963. The US government also backed Saddam in 1980 when he launched a war of aggression against Iran, even though they knew that he was using chemical weapons. Fast forward to 1990. Saddam Hussein was embroiled in a dispute with Kuwait over oil prices and borders and he was considering taking action.
Given America’s support in the war against Iran, Saddam had no reason to believe that Kuwait would be any different, but just to be sure, he decided to consult with Washington first.On July 25th of 1990 US ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie met with Saddam Hussein. In the meeting Saddam described his case against Kuwait and told Glaspie that he viewed their activities as an act of military aggression.
Glaspie responded by saying “We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait”, and she reinforced this by saying “this issue is not associated with America” Naturally Saddam interpreted this as a green light, and eight days later he invaded.
Later, when questioned in hearings, Glaspie claimed that though this quote was accurate, she had followed it up by insisting that Iraq settle its dispute non-violently. However that’s not what shows up in the transcripts of the conversation released by the New York Times. According to the transcript she said “All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly.”
But maybe this was just an innocent diplomatic blunder right? Well not quite. As soon as Saddam entered Kuwait the U.S. government launched a very interesting propaganda campaign to build up public support for a war. They claimed that Iraqi troops were slaughtering little babies by throwing them out of their incubators in hospitals, and they brought in teary eyed witnesses who testified to having seen the massacres.
Just one problem… the entire event was fabricated. It never happened. This woman who presented herself as a witness was actually the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States and her testimony was part of a public relations campaign organized by a company called Hill and Knowlton.
Once public support for the war was strong, the incubators story was dropped, and never mentioned again. The US invaded Iraq in 1991. During that war the U.S. military utilized approximately 640,000 pounds of Depleted Uranium ammunition. The Iraq was decimated, but the US left Saddam in power.
The war didn’t ever really end though. The U.S. kept Iraq under a draconian sanctions regime that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children. Clinton kept those sanctions in place for the entire duration of his presidency, and they knew what was happening.
You know how they say “those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it”? That’s really not an exaggeration. Fast forward to 2003 and the Kuwaiti incubator story was swapped out for stories of mobile missile silos and yellow cake uranium.
And when it turned out that those weapons of mass destruction didn’t exist, they acted like it was no big deal. Then of course came Obama, riding in on promises of hope and change. But we saw how Obama toppled Libya in 2011, leaving that nation in utter chaos. Gaddafi was then killed in a rather gruesome fashion.
Before NATO brought down Gaddafi Libya had the highest standard of living in all of Africa. Now it’s a perpetual war-zone. And of course we’ve seen how Obama has funded and armed the Syrian rebels in an attempt to bring down Assad. Obama is operating from the same playbook, and yes there is a playbook.
Fortunately the future is not set in stone. We can influence the outcome, and we already are. We proved that in 2013 when both the left and the right dropped their petty bickering and unified against Obama’s proposal to use airstrikes against Assad.
The pattern of deceit was the same, but this time the people didn’t fall for it. The fact that we had the U.N. investigator Carla Del Ponte come out to say that the Syrian rebels were behind the sarin gas attacks helped, the fact that Putin short circuited the US diplomatically helped, but the determining factor was the popular resistance, particularly the signs of discontent from within the military. The ruling class is very hesitant to take a nation to war if the people and the military strongly oppose it. That’s why the first casualty of war is always the truth.
What’s going on in Iraq right now is horrific. ISIS is already committing atrocities against civilians on a massive scale. Inexplicably the Obama administration did not provide the Iraqi military with immediate air support even after the fall of Mosul.
On June 12th, the US Military conducted its second drone strike this month in Pakistan. Why would Obama refuse to act in Iraq when civilians are being massacred, while employing drones in Pakistan without hesitation? Is it because the outrage over the atrocities that the ISIS is committing may be enough to provide the US government with a backdoor into Syria?
It turns out that Obama is considering airstrikes, but not just in Iraq. He wants to extend those strikes into Syria as well. Once the US military is able to freely conduct operations in Syrian territory they will get the regime change that they will be much, much easier. It’s the classic formula Problem, Reaction, Solution.
The US created the problem, they are letting the public react and build up outrage, and then they are going to propose a “solution” that will sow the seeds for another generation of conflicts. To short circuit this pattern the public needs to come to terms with the cold hold hard truth.
No matter what the US does, and no matter how long they stay, there is no happy ending to this story. The chaos that we’re seeing in this region is the direct result of half a century of US military interventions and covert operations in the Middle East.
It’s time to acknowledge that bombing for peace doesn’t work, regime change for stability doesn’t work, and you can’t fix a mistake by repeating it over and over. If the US honestly wants to stop the spread of Islamic terrorism, then they should stop funding and arming Jihadists in Syria. That would be a good starting point.
Brian Becker, an anti-war campaigner with the ANSWER coalition, told RT that the United States and its allies must take some of the blame for the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“It was the intervention of the United States in Iraq and the US and its partners in Syria, which laid the groundwork for the ISIS organization to develop. In 2010-2011, remember they said they carried out six actions in the whole year,” he said.
“They were practically defunct until the United States and its allies supported the armed opposition inside Syria and gave an opportunity to this organization to develop and come back into Iraq,” Becker added.