Photo of the destroyed shrines, taken from footage submitted by the Ezdina Foundation.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkish-backed armed groups continue to desecrate property belonging to the Yezidi minority in Afrin, northern Syria. Cemeteries, religious shrines and Yezidi cemeteries in Afrin have been destroyed, stolen and looted by armed groups, according to local activists. The Ezdina Foundation, which monitors abuses in Afrin in general and against Yezidis in particular, documented the latest information and footage of the damaged shrines and cemeteries. “We are documenting these oppressions and show them to the international community so they can help the Yezidi minority in northern Syria,” said Ali Isso, head of the foundation, to Rudaw TV on Monday.
Shrines looted and vandalized by armed groups include the shrine of Sheikh Junaid in the village of Faqira, the shrine of an ordinary king in the village of Qibar, the shrine of Sheikh Hussein in the village of Qibar, the shrine of Gilkhan and the shrine of Sheikh Rikab in the village of Shadiri.
Yezidi graves in the village of Qibar have also been destroyed. Villagers tried to repair the shrines, but the damage is still visible. “Their aim is to destroy and loot all signs or symbols that represent the history and identity of the Yezidis,”Isso added.
According to information obtained by Rudaw from Yezidi organizations and activists, out of a total of 35,000 Yezidis, only about 3,000 Yezidis remain in the Afrin region.
Six Yezidi women and girls in Afrin have been kidnapped by armed groups in the past six months. “Nergis was shot ten times and died. Arin Hassan, another Yezidi girl, was kidnapped 60 days ago… nothing is known about her,” Isso told Rudaw.
“Gulle Hassan was released two weeks ago after 40 days in prison. She was tortured a lot and her body turned black with bruises,” he added. “They imagine that after next five years they can own the land. That’s why they want to remove the Identity of the Yezidi minority. They don’t want any signs of Yezidis and Kurds. They want to impose Ottoman, Turkish and Arabic signs on Afrin land.” Ali added.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has warned of ethnic cleansing against Yezidis in the area, saying locals face "systematic violations" in at least ten villages in northern Syria.
Yezidi human rights organizations have condemned violations against Afrin's minorities for over a year.
Reporting by Hussein Omar
Translation by Sarkawt Mohammed
(c) 2023, Rudaw