The Yezidis are a Kurdish community who live in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Georgia. Their belief system dates back centuries before Islam. Photo: Rudaw
ANKARA, Turkey - Ayla Akat Ata, a deputy of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), filed a motion at the Turkish parliament last week, demanding the restoration of property and civil rights for the country’s Yezidi minority.
“The Yezidis have had to abandon their country as they have been exposed to intensive pressure and oppression by the assimilationist policies of the state,” Ata said in the motion, which she termed as an “Investigation Request.”
The Yezidis are a Kurdish ethno-religious community who live in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Georgia. Their belief system dates back centuries before Islam.
Ata’s motion stated that the government must officially recognize the identity and faith of Yezidis, providing them with religious classes, places of worship and protection for sacred sites.
“They have been oppressed due to their religious belief by the states they are affiliated with as well as by the peoples they live among,” Ata’s motion noted.
Ata said that some harsh measures that were introduced by Ottoman authorities against the Yezidis -- who in Turkey live mostly live in Urfa, Batman, Mardin and Diyarbakir -- have continued to the present day.
“The faith of Yezidis has been neglected, their lands have been forcibly taken away from them and their main source of income, which is agriculture and husbandry, has been eradicated this way,” the motion read.
Worse still, according to Ata, Yezidis are registered either as Muslims or non-believers in official documents and identity papers.
The request also explained that Yezidi women have been “Islamicized,” and that their beliefs and culture have been disregarded.
Nisan Alici, an advisor to Ata, told Rudaw that, out of the 80,000 Yezidis who lived in Turkey four decades ago, there remain fewer than 400 today.
Alici blamed Turkey’s relentless assimilationist policies against other minorities for the exodus of Yezidis, most of whom fled to Europe, particular Germany.
“Many of the Yezidi families who have lived away from their villages and lands for years want to return and they demand legal guarantees for that,” she said.
“We have received many letters from the Yezidi community in Turkey and abroad. They demand that necessary legal and economic conditions should be provided for their return. Their villages should be reestablished and they should be paid compensation for their loss,” she added.
“The fact that the lands of Yezidis are not given back to their owners in some villages, despite the decisions of restitution by some courts, demonstrates how serious this issue is,” she said.
The request also explained that Yezidi properties have been confiscated, and Yezidis have been forced to sell or rent their lands. “The Yezidis have been deprived of their housing-right in Turkey,” it added.
“The Yezidis had to leave their country due to the persecution and pressure they faced. And after they moved to Europe, even their private registered lands were invaded, their trees were ripped off. The Yezidi owners of those lands were threatened, and some of their villages were abandoned and became uninhabitable places,” the motion said.
Yilmaz Demiray, a Yezidi council member in the town of Sur in Diyarbakir, told Rudaw that the main demand of Yezidis is the official recognition of their faith and of their right to return to their ancestral homeland.
The government should ascertain the amount of destruction in the occupied or abandoned Yezidi villages, he said.
“The only Yezidi family in my village is my own family. The rest of the Yezidi people had to move to Europe in 1993. And their properties have been given to others,” he added.
Yezidis preparing to return to their homeland say that their religious freedom should be guaranteed in the constitution, and that this will be the only solution to their problem, according to the request.