Iraq’s Yazidis in Crossfire In Baghdad

By Ali Abel Sadah for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

On the evening of May 14, 2013, dozens of people had gathered in front of a small shop in Baghdad to buy alcohol. Rabie Square — a vital commercial center in central Baghdad — was filled with the sounds of cars and shoppers as unidentified assailants emerged from four-wheel drive vehicles and opened heavy fire on alcohol vendors and workers, the majority of whom were Yazidi youth.

On May 14, 2013, 12 employees of an alcohol shop in Baghdad, 10 of whom were Yazidis, were killed by armed assailants amid increasing religious extremism in the country.

In a phone conversation with Al-Monitor, an officer on the federal police force said: “A group of armed assailants emerged from four vehicles in the Ghadeer neighborhood in eastern Baghdad. They entered a shop that sells alcoholic beverages and opened fire on those in the shop using guns fitted with silencers. This resulted in 12 people being killed, 10 of whom were Yazidi.”

Adherents of the Yazidi religion have settled in Iraq. They are the remnants of an ancient Eastern religion that still maintains some of the traditions and beliefs of the people of Mesopotamia.

There are more than 500,000 Yazidis in Iraq, the majority of whom live in the Nineveh and Dohuk provinces (in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq). About 20,000 Iraqi Yazidis have emigrated to Europe, mostly settling in Germany and Switzerland. The Lalish temple, located in the Sheikhan region of the Nineveh province, is the sacred religious center for followers of this religion.

The majority of Yazidi youth emigrate to Baghdad to work in the alcoholic beverage trade. The Iraqi tourism law that was ratified prior to 2003 only allows non-Muslims to work in this trade. Since the fall of the regime of former President Saddam Hussein, Iraqi legislators have not changed or modified this legal clause.

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