Yazidi refugee Salma Bakir, 9, from Iraq, waits with her family to be permitted by Macedonian police to board a train heading to the Serbian border | picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Muheisen
Yazidi refugee Salma Bakir, 9, from Iraq, waits with her family to be permitted by Macedonian police to board a train heading to the Serbian border | picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Muheisen

The federal ministry of the interior has passed a state-level reception program that will welcome traumatized Yazidis from Iraq who were persecuted by the "Islamic State."

Germany's Federal Ministry of the Interior approved a reception program for Yazidis from Iraq in the eastern German state of Brandenburg. The initiative aims to provide shelter for Yazidis who were persecuted by the so-called Islamic State (IS) and suffered traumatic experiences at the hands of the terror group.

The KNA news agency reported that this is according to a written reply given by the Potsdam state chancellery in Brandenburg to an inquiry from state parliament member Andrea Johlige of left-wing party, Die Linke.

"Now we can start with the actual implementation of the reception of people who are particularly in need of protection," Brandenburg state secretary Martin Gorholt said.

Cooperation with UNHCR

In the coming weeks, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) will compile dossiers of persons eligible to for the program. Gorholt said the only criterion for admission was the need for protection. A representative from the Brandenburg state chancellery will conduct interviews in the autonomous Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq with potential candidates for the reception program, together with UNHCR staff. 

The domestic intelligence service of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz) will meanwhile conduct security and background checks of potential candidates. Problems could arise if the persons concerned don't have all the necessary identification papers and other documents.

KNA said that the process will presumably start in March 2019 but  did not report how many Yazidis Germany will receive. The German general consulate in Erbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, will subsequently be in charge of issuing visas to those who qualify for the program, Gorhold said.

Persecution and diaspora

Yazidis are a monotheistic religious minority among the Kurds with several hundred thousand members living around the world. Today, they are located in northern Syria, northwest Iran, southeast Turkey and, primarily, in northern Iraq, where the majority of them has had to flee from the IS terror militia.

According to Germany's Federal Agency for Civic Education (BpB), there are Yazidi diaspora communities around the globe — including now in Western Europe; with around 150,000 members, the largest Yazidi diaspora worldwide can be found in Germany.

Yazidi beliefs unite elements of different Middle Eastern religions — particularly Islam, but also Christianity. Their religious center is Lalish, a city in Northern Iraq near Mosul.

Over the course of centuries, Yazidis were persecuted time and again — not only for religious reasons but also as an ethnic group because of their close affiliation with the Kurds. Fundamental Muslims and Islamists like IS fighters consider Yazidis as non-believers or "infidels," which is why Yazidis even today still often hide their identity in their home areas in fear of suffering violence and abuse.

Sexual slavery and mass rapes

In the past few years, 26-year-old Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad, who now lives in Germany, has shed further light on the plight of her people at the hands of IS, including the abduction of Yazidi women into sexual slavery, earning her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018. However, the overall protection rate given to Yazidis in Germany has been declining in recent years, as their homelands have become safer:

In 2017, the protection rate of Yazidi refugees in Germany dropped to 83 percent, which was 12 percent less compared to the previous year. In 2015, the protection rate for Yazidis was close to 100 percent during the height of the refugee crisis and the IS reign of terror in northern Iraq and Syria.

At the end of January, the Yazidi's worldly leader prince Tahseen Said Beg passed away in Germany at the age of 85 after a long illness. Born in 1933 in northern Iraq, Tahsin Beg assumed the duties and responsibilities of prince at age 11 when his father died. Several assassination attempts forced him into exile in Europe, from where he advocated for the Yazidis during some of their darkest years including the attacks by IS in 2014. "No event had challenged him as much as the beginning of the Islamic State's genocide of Yazidis in the Sinjar region," the Yazidis' central council in Germany wrote in a press release announcing Said's death.

 

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