Minority Rights Group International (MRG) Deputy Director, Claire Thomas, writes this opinion piece for the Thomson Reuters News Foundation.+ LEARN MORE
Yezidis (also called Ezidis) adhere to a non-monotheist religion of ancient origin in the Middle East. Yezidis emphasize their distinct religious identity. Some identify ethnically as Kurds, while others view themselves as having a distinct ethnic identity as Yezidis. They speak the Kormanje dialect of Kurdish.
Historically concentrated in eastern, southern and south-eastern Turkey, their number was around 60,000 in the early 1980s. From the mid-1980s, nearly all of them emigrated to Europe to escape persecution and armed conflict.
Yezidis were affected in the armed conflict between the Turkish armed forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) during 1984–99, when masses of civilians were displaced from their homes in eastern and south-eastern Turkey. Consensus between NGOs, a parliamentary commission and the Hacettepe survey (commissioned by the government) is that the security forces were responsible for many of the evictions. Alongside Assyrians, Arabs and Kurds, Yezidi displaced people have suffered lack of adequate compensation, not been granted the right to return until 1999, received limited aid for reconstruction of homes, and lacked adequate information regarding what restitution is available to them.
The number of Yezidis who have migrated from Kars and Agrı in eastern Turkey to large cities in the west, as well as the remaining Yezidis in central Turkey and southern provinces of Maras and Antep, is unknown.
The number of Yezidis remaining in Turkey is uncertain, with some research suggesting that only a few hundred remain. Since the offensive by ISIS militants in Sinjar, Iraq in the summer of 2014, several thousand Iraqi Yezidis are now based in Turkey, where they reportedly face discrimination due to their faith as well as their status as refugees.
The June 2015 elections saw, for the first time in the country’s history, the election of a member of parliament of Yezidi heritage.
Updated June 2018
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