Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Yazidis and Chaldeans

Most of us had never heard of the Yazidis before they were attacked by the rampaging terrorists of the Islamic State in the former Iraq and Syria. They and the former Iraqi Christians are being hunted down and killed by these raving fundamentalists, who are committing genocide and barbarous murders, such as live decapitations and crucifixions. 
The Yazidis are the remnant of a Persian people whose religion and beliefs are based on the Zoroastrian religion of the former Persian Empire.  They were long ago defeated by the Muslims and most of them were wiped out or forced to convert to Islam.  This remnant of ca. 1 million people live in the far mountainous north of the former Iraq, near the Syrian-Turkish borders and adjacent to the Kurdish regions of Syria and Iraq.  They have some affinity for the Kurds who are also originally a Persian people, although they are Muslims and much more numerous.  Unfortunately the Muslims believe the Yazidis worship the devil, which is simply untrue, but nevertheless this gives the IS fighters an excuse to kill them on sight.  The Yazidis have fled from their towns and have sought refuge either in the Kurdish Autonomous Region (KAR) of Iraq if they can reach it, or are stranded on Mount Sinjar where they are desperately trying to escape the IS fighters. 
The Iraqi Christians represent the remnant of a large and ancient Christian population, that over the years has been whittled down, just as the Jews were before them, to a pitiful few.  As recently as the 1980s there were ca. 1.5 million of them divided into several sects.  Ethnically they are mostly Assyrians, a group that once controlled a great Empire.  The largest Christian sect are the Chaldeans, who have been subjected to massacres and persecution throughout the ages by both Sunni and Shia Muslims.  In the 1920s there were large scale massacres of hundreds of thousands of Chaldean Christians that were hardly known about since they were in a very inaccessible region of central Iraq.  Now they number perhaps no more than 350,000.  Many of them moved to the cities, Baghdad and Mosul or emigrated to the west.  In Baghdad they have been subjected to bombings and killings often by Shia extremists.  In Mosul now under the IS their existence is endangered because they have been ordered, convert to Islam or die.  Many thousands of them have tried to escape to the KAR in northern Iraq where they are pleading for help to escape to the west.
Of course, the US under Pres. Obama have reacted too little, too late.  The USAF have been dropping water, food parcels and tents to the refugees in the Sinjar area and a route has been developed for them to reach the KAR across Syrian territory controlled by the Syrian Kurds, but this requires them to walk for days through very mountainous country.  The USAF has also been attacking the IS fighters as they approach the KAR in order to slow their advance.  With US arms finally dropped to the Pesh Merga Kurdish fighters, this has enabled them to strike back and recapture two of their towns that were overun by the IS. 
The rapid advance of the IS to conquer a huge swath of territory from Aleppo in the west to Mosul in the east has enabled the IS to not only capture huge quantities of American arms from the US-trained Iraqi Army, but also to gain many recruits from among the Sunnis in the Iraqi heartland, as well as fighters from other extremist groups, such as al Qaeda and the Syrian al Nusrah Front.  It is understandable that Pres. Obama, with his liberal views, does not want to get involved in another ground war in the Middle East.  But, now is the time to strike at the IS, while is is still young and in formation.  After it has consolidated its power in this huge region it will be too late, and they will represent a formidable threat in the future, greater than al Qaeda, to the US and western civilization in general.  But it is likely, as the Americans like to say, that Obama will "kick the can down the road."


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