Prince of ISIS-ravaged Yazidis buried in Iraq
Some prayed while others cried as a dozen men surrounded by a sea of mourners carefully lowered the coffin of the Yazidi spiritual leader into a freshly dug grave on Tuesday.
Prince Tahseen Said Ali, the longtime head of the world’s Yazidi minority brutally targeted by Islamic State group jihadists in Iraq, died in Germany at the end of January aged 85.
For many he was a “symbol” and a “father” figure for a long-persecuted minority whose Yazidi faith emerged in Iran more than 4,000 years ago and is rooted in Zoroastrianism.
Over time the Yazidi faith, which has no holy book, integrated elements of Islam and Christianity, praying to God facing the sun and worshipping his seven angels — first and foremost Melek Taus or Peacock Angel.
“Prince Tahseen was the symbol of the Yazidis,” even when he lived in exile in Germany, said community member Zardachat Mirza.
Prince Tahseen’s body arrived Monday from Germany and was buried Tuesday in the gardens of his family home in the northern Iraqi town of Sheikhan.
Mirza, his head covered in a white headscarf and sporting a neatly trimmed black beard, stood surrounded by a massive crowd of mourners who had come to bid their spiritual leader a last farewell.
One by one they approached the grave to lay a flower or to kiss a large portrait depicting Tahseen.
“He was like our father and he considered all of us his children,” said Mir Haj, a Yazidi cleric.
His death had left “a huge void and his successor must be of his stature,” he added.
Iraqi Yazidi parliamentarian Vian Dakhil has told AFP that before dying, Prince Tahseen had appointed his son, Hazem, who lives in Sheikhan, to succeed him.
Community elders are expected to appoint Hazem their new leader soon.
The Yazidi community he will oversee is among Iraq’s most vulnerable minorities which was long-persecuted by executed dictator Saddam Hussein before being ferociously targeted by IS.
When IS jihadists swept across northern Iraq in 2014 they seized the Yazidi bastion of Sinjar near the border with Syria and slaughtered thousands of Yazidi men and women.
They also abducted women and girls to be abused as “sex slaves”.
IS considers Yazidis devil-worshippers because they glorify the peacock which the jihadists see as a demon figure.
According to authorities, more than 6,400 Yazidis were abducted and only half of them were able to flee or be rescued.
The fate of the others remains unknown.
The brutal assault pushed around 360,000 of the Kurdish-speaking Yazidis to flee to other parts of Iraq, including the Kurdish region, in addition to another 100,000 who left the country altogether.
The United Nations has said IS’s actions could amount to genocide, and is investigating the jihadist group’s atrocities across Iraq.
Nadia Murad, who was jointly awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize with Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, survived a nightmare ordeal at the hands of the jihadists..
She was captured, raped and forced to marry a jihadist before she was able to escape.
Since then she has dedicated herself to what she calls “our peoples’ fight” with the support of Lebanese-British lawyer and human rights activist Amal Clooney to ensure the jihadists pay for their crimes.