Cablegate: Rrt Erbil: The Plight of the Small: Yazeidi Community

DE RUEHGB #3923/01 3501137
P 151137Z DEC 08




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This is an Erbil Regional Reconstruction Team (RRT) cable.

1. (SBU) Summary: The supreme leader of the Yazeidis believes that
association with the Kurdistan Region (rather than the central Iraqi
government) is better for his community, but resents the top-down
imposition of KDP-chosen authorities in local communities and the
diminution of his own powers that association would bring. He seeks
greater Yazeidi political representation at the Ministerial level,
and on Provincial Councils. Emigration has taken its toll on the
community, and the leader fears that it will disappear altogether
from Iraq. The Yazeidis also fear Islamic fundamentalism and have
publicly announced their support for U.S. actions in Iraq. End

Yaziedi Demographics

2. (SBU) In a meeting with the Kurdistan Region Reconstruction Team
(RRT) on November 18, Meer (honorific) Tahseen, the "Prince of the
Yaziedis in Iraq the World and President of the Yaziedi High
Religious Council" gave an overview of the situation of the Yaziedi
people in the Dohuk/Mosul region, focused on population trends that
threaten to make them a minority in their ancestral homes. He
stated that there were overall 400,000 to 450,000 Yaziedi in the
Mosul/Dohuk area. Yaziedis are in Semel district (in the Dohuk
Province) and in a number of locations in Mosul. Using the Shekhan
district in Mosul as an example of demographic trends, Meer Tahseen
explained that this district had been 100% Yaziedi in 1930. Over
the years Muslims and a few Christians had moved or been relocated
to the district. In 1958 the district was 90% Yaziedi, 8% Muslim,
and 2% Christian. In 2003 the district was only 70% Yaziedi and 28%
Muslim, with Christians still only 2%. In places such as Semel the
shifts were even larger - Yaziedis are now only 50% in an area where
they were predominant.

3. (SBU) Meer Tahseen fears that the Yaziedi community may disappear
from Iraq altogether. Some 150,000 were in Europe and another 1,000
in Canada and the United States. He called his inability to help
his people a tragic position to be in as the leader of his nation.

KRG-KDP Control

4. (SBU) Meer Tahseen explained that all local officials in
Shekhan, including the local heads of political parties, were
assigned by the KDP. All except the "municipalities' boss" were
Muslim. After the 2003 invasion, the KRG had taken over 200
government houses. If a (Muslim) Kurdish family wanted to live in
Shekhan, he explained, the authorities would give him land - but not
to Christians or Yaziedis. Land, in fact, was being given out to
peshmerga and to police - and only 2% of the police force was
Christian or Yaziedi. According to Meer Tahseen, the KRG is afraid
that Yaziedis will ask for autonomy (like the Christians), so they
were trying to send more Muslims to the area. In response to the
question of whether local authorities in Mosul are named by the
Mosul Governor, Meer Tahseen stated that "the KDP decides."

Yaziedis in Provincial Elections

5. (SBU) Although Meer Tahseen was disappointed with the decision on
minority seats in the Council of Representatives-approved Provincial
Elections Law, the Yaziedi will not boycott the elections. (He
explained that as part of the Kurdistan Alliance they would not want
to "cause any problems.") The Yaziedis had originally asked for
five seats for the Mosul Provincial Council and the PUK/KDP in the
Qfive seats for the Mosul Provincial Council and the PUK/KDP in the
Council of Representatives (CoR) had supported their demand, but
others had not. Now they only have one seat. Meer Tahseen
explained that the Yaziedi would not form their own political party;
they did not think it appropriate for political parties to have an
express religious affiliation. (He also offered that the KDP "would
not let them" form their own party.)

Appropriate Representation

6. (SBU) Asked which party would best represent the Yaziedi, Meer
Tahseen said that, overall, the Yaziedi were best represented by the
KDP and PUK. There were Yaziedi members of these parties, which
were secular and Kurdish (and the Yaziedi consider themselves
ethnically Kurdish). At the same time, Meer Tahseen confided his
fear that some KDP leaders were in fact deeply Muslim and could
constitute a threat. If the Yaziedi community had to choose between
being part of the KR or part of Iraq, it would choose the KR -
"better to be 12% of the population than 2%."

BAGHDAD 00003923 002 OF 002

7. (SBU) Returning to the question of political representation,
Meer Tahseen said that the Iraqi Constitution (which has special
provisions for ethnic groups) did not specifically protect them,
although it did provide for freedom of religion. He affirmed that
the Yaziedi community was able to practice its religion without
hindrance; nonetheless, it "lacked rights." More Ministerial
representation and more representation in the Kurdistan National
Assembly were needed. One way to improve Yaziedi political
representation would be for the KDP and PUK to put more Yaziedi
candidates on their lists and push for Yaziedi candidates for the
Provincial Councils.

8. (SBU) Meer Tahseen affirmed his support for the United States
and explained that he had publicly supported the invasion - even
before it was a sure thing that Saddam's regime would be toppled.
He voiced his fears of Islamic extremism and stated that Al-Qaeda
would kill Yaziedis for their association with Americans. Asked
about the Islamic parties in the KR, Meer Tahseen said pragmatically
"they won't eat with us or have anything to do with us - but at
least they don't kill us like Al-Qaeda." However, Meer Tahseen did
state his belief that members of AQI groups (e.g., Ansar al-Islam)
have infiltrated the PUK and KDP.

Approach to Barzani

9. (SBU) Concerning the draft Kurdistan Region Constitution, Meer
Tahseen explained that he had sent a letter to President Barzani
explaining Yaziedi views; he thought that there would be a positive
response and respect for their "rights" in the Constitution. On the
Personal Status Law, the Yaziedi community is drafting its own
Personal Status Code (as is permitted by Article 41). This will be
submitted to the Kurdistan National Assembly for ratification.

10. (U) Note: On November 19, the KRG announced the opening of a
special directorate within the Ministry of Religious Affairs, headed
by a Yaziedi Director General. A Yaziedi commentator on the event
expressed the hope that special attention might be paid to renewing
confidence between Yaziedis and their elected representatives in the
KNA, restoring and protecting the Lalish holy shrine; and
strengthening the Yaziedi cultural heritage. End note.


11. (SBU) Historically oppressed and shunned, Yaziedis now enjoy a
measure of autonomy over their own affairs and tolerance within the
Kurdistan Region and areas controlled by the Kurdish political
parties. However, the toll of emigration has been severe on the
Yaziedi, particularly given the absolute strictness with which
marriage within religion and within caste is enforced. Anecdotal
reports abound of Yaziedi men and women finding themselves facing a
"choice" of only one eligible mate; in some instances there are no
eligible mates, in which case their fate is lifetime bachelor or

12. (SBU) As a traditional leader, the Meer is seeking to navigate
the new opportunities for "democracy" and "rights" to the benefit of
his people; but his aspirations do not always coincide with the
top-down power distribution of the KDP/PUK political system to which
the community is politically bound.

© Scoop Media

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