News item | 2014-08-28 | 16:20 PM

Behzet from Hamburg helps Ezidies in Iraq

Members of the Ezidi religion in Iraq have suffered greatly under the oppression from Islamic militants. "The worst is over but they had to leave their homes with pretty much nothing else than the clothes they were wearing. They need everything," says Cetin-Behzet Cengiz, portfolio risk analyst at Vattenfall in Germany, who is involved in aiding his fellow Ezidis.

An unknown number of Ezidis have been massacred in northern Iraq lately by a group of Islamic State (Isis) jihadist. Estimates range between 500 to 1,500 killed Ezidis. Those who had the chance to - 100,000-150,000 Ezidis - have fled their homes in the Iraqi north-west region.

The UN has estimated that roughly 40,000 people took refuge in nine locations on Mount Sinjar. The U.S. together with several European countries have initiated emergency measures to provide the Ezidis with water and food.

Flee, convert or be killed

Cetin-Behzet Cengiz, an Ezid born in Midyat in Turkey, came to Husum on the German North Sea cost as a one year-old and now works at Asset Optimisation and Trading in Hamburg.

"According to Isis, Ezidis are third-class people," he says. "They were faced with a choice between converting, being killed or to flee their homes. They did not have time to bring anything with them, except for the clothes that they were wearing. The worst is over now but they have not been able to return to their homes as part of the area is still held under control by Isis. It will take months to finally push them out of the country. Until then the displaced Ezidies need pretty much everything."

Cengiz is heavily involved in aiding his fellow Ezidis.
"Roughly 60,000 Ezidis live in Germany and I normally work with initiatives to attract young people to higher education. Now we have been focusing on raising money and finding ways to transport water, food, medicine and other basics to the ones who are trapped on Mount Sinjar, in refugee camps throughout the Kurdish area, or places in Turkey and Syria close to the Iraqi border. There is a need for everything. But the situation is very difficult. Neither the Bagdad government nor the Kurds have any kind of jurisdiction in northern Iraq at the moment and the airport in Erbil is not open at all times."

Facts about the Ezidis

The Ezidis are an ethno-religious community whose ancient monotheistic religion is linked to Zoroastrianism and ancient Mesopotamian religions. The Ezidis believe in God as creator of the world, which he has placed under the care of seven holy beings or angels; the chief archangel is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. Some followers of other monotheistic religions of the region equate the Peacock Angel with their own unredeemed evil spirit which has incited centuries of persecution of the Ezidis as devil worshippers.

In Ezidism however, the Peacock Angel symbolizes the uniqueness of god. The fact that the Peacock Angel extinguished the fires of hell with his tears means Ezidis do not believe in the existence of evil nor the existence of hell. Even the word of the evil alone carries a deeply negative connotation and it is therefore common never to mention it. Ezidis follow certain dietary laws. Their most important religious festive events are "Ida Ezi" taking place at Midwinter, the shortest day and longest night of the year. It symbolizes the end of a fasting period. Because of its great importance it has become common to compare it to Christmas.

The New Year's Day called "Carsema Sor" (Red Wednesday) taking place on the first Wednesday of the month called "Nisan" which relates to April.

The Iraqi Children's Relief Fund

Read about the Ezidis' hardship in Iraq