Reading the latter [Koran] is one of the most … instructive things imaginable because the eye easily discovers there, by very closely observing, all the threads by which the prophet held and still holds the members of his sect. … [T]hat the first of all religious duties is to blindly obey the prophet, that holy war is the first of all good deeds … [A]ll these doctrines of which the practical outcome is obvious are found on every page and in almost every word of the Koran are so striking that I cannot understand how any man with good sense could miss them.
—Alexis de Tocqueville, March, 1838
Iraq’s Yazidis are an indigenous, ancient, pre-Islamic non-Muslim religious minority whose syncretic beliefs derive, in part, from Zoroastrianism. Over the past 3-weeks, world attention has riveted on the Yazidis’ (Yezidis’) horrific plight, targeted by the latest jihad rampages of the “Islamic State” (IS/IL) butchers, and subjected to massacre, rape, enslavement, and forced conversion to Islam. Indeed, ever grudgingly, the non-Muslim world has been compelled to acknowledge IS/IL’s ghastly, murderous jihad rampages against both the Christian and Yazidi religious minorities of northern Iraq.
Per President Obama’s address Thursday evening, 8/7/14, the U.S. initiated both humanitarian air-drops to those Yazidi refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar, Iraq, and bombing runs against IS/IL positions outside Erbil, Kurdistan. Unquestionably, the Yazidis—and Christians—remain in a parlous state.
However, due to the efforts of the Kurdish PKK militia—a U.S.-designated terror group—some ~50,000 Yazidis were evacuated from the Sinjar Mountains within a week of President Obama’s announcement. Der Spiegel reported that PKK fighters who controlled the region on the Syrian side of the border, liberated the road to Sinjar, and established a network of refugee camps for the beleaguered Yazidis. The PKK’s successful evacuation undertaking prompted U.S. Special Forces—who landed in the Sinjar mountains last Wednesday (8/13/14)—to cancel their own plans to organize a rescue airlift for the (ostensibly tens of thousands of) stranded Yazidis.
Assessing these developments, last Friday, 8/15/14, mainstream conservative icon Charles Krauthammer sniped,
He [President Obama] declares victory with the Yazidis two days ago, and we hear about this horrific massacre [i.e., of 80 Yazidi men in Kocho, Iraq] today
Krauthammer’s self-assuredly mordant “take,” reflects a widely shared—albeit sham—mainstream conservative narrative dogmatically articulated by Iraq veteran, and another frequent Fox News contributor, Pete Hegseth, published 8/16/14 at NRO:
[T]he surge of U.S. forces in 2007 and 2008 created an environment in which a multi-ethnic, mostly moderate, and quasi-stable U.S. ally could (could!) flourish in the Middle East.
Last week also marked the seventh anniversary of a cataclysmic “mid-surge” jihadist attack on Iraq’s Yazidis—conveniently and unanimously ignored by Krauthammer, Hegseth, and all conservative “surge” romanticizers. August 14, 2007, when the surging U.S. had 166,000 troops on the ground in Iraq—not the mere one-fifth (or one-tenth) residual numbers pined for by those who insist the failure to secure a 2011 status of forces agreement with the al-Maliki regime sealed the undoing of Iraq’s “stability”—796 Yazidis were slaughtered, and another 1562 wounded, in one day, during four gruesomely synchronized jihadist bombings. (see here, here, and U.S. army confirmation of death toll, here). Veteran Middle East journalist Tom Gross provided this characterization of the events:
[T]wo tons of explosives detonated in four coordinated explosions in the northern Iraqi villages of Qahtaniya and Jazeera on August 14, 2007, the target was Iraq’s Yazidi ethnic and religious minority. 796 people died and over 1,500 were wounded as a fireball led to the collapse of mud and stone buildings on families trapped inside; many were then burned alive.
Such a glaring lacuna in honest, self-critical discourse, i.e., omitting all discussion of the 8/14/07 mass-murderous, “mid-surge” Yazidi catastrophe, is pathognomonic of a broader, much more disturbing ethical and intellectual travesty: ongoing attempts by mainstream conservatives to rationalize their uninformed, witless adherence to the utopian “Lewis-doctrine”-inspired “Islamic democracy” fiasco in Iraq. Born of sheer willful ignorance about living Islamic doctrine, and history, this deficient mindset begot a corollary dangerous absurdity: embrace of the Petraeus “COIN” theory, a see no jihad, see no Islam military strategy designed, perversely, to somehow “defeat” the ancient-cum-modern forces of global Islamic jihadism.
The current predicament of Iraq’s Yazidis, and Christians, past as prologue, illustrates, starkly, mainstream conservative ignorance and dishonesty about Islam, and the creed’s timeless sine qua non institution, jihad.
Iraq’s Yazidis and Christians Under “Tolerant” Ottoman Islam: Past as Prologue
Sadly, IS/IL’s bloody attacks on the Yazidis reflect a continuum of religiously-inspired, chronic Islamic oppression of this minority group, interspersed with paroxysms of violence no less brutal than what is now taking place.
Sir Austen Henry Layard (1817-1894) was a British polymath—archaeologist, author, politician, and diplomat—perhaps best known for his the excavations in northern Mesopotamia, contemporary Iraq.
Layard recorded the following, based upon first hand observations, and historical assessments, about the chronic plight of the Yazidis (Yezidis) under Islamic domination in his 1849, Nineveh and Its Remains. His focus, appropriately, given the time frame, was upon the depredations against the Yazidis during the allegedly “tolerant” Ottoman Muslim era: massacre, pillage, and deportation and enslavement of their male and female children, for “service” in the vast Ottoman slave institutions, including harem slavery.
They [the Yazidis] have the choice between conversion and the sword, and its is unlawful even to take tribute [jizya, per Koran 9:29, the deliberately debasing poll-tax, and related regulations imposed upon non-Muslim Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians subjugated by jihad] from them. The Yezidis, not being looked upon as “Masters of a Book,” [i.e., scriptures, “acknowledged,” at least in part, by Islam] have been exposed for centuries to the persecution of the Mohammedans. The harems of the south of Turkey have been recruited from them. Yearly expeditions have been made by the governors of provinces into their districts; and whilst the men and women were slaughtered without mercy, the children of both sexes were carried off, and exposed for sale in the principal towns. These annual hunts were one of the sources of revenue…and its was the custom of the Pashas of Baghdad and Mosul, to let loose the irregular troops upon the ill-fated Yezidis, as an easy method of satisfying their demands for arrears of pay.
This system was still practiced to a certain extent within a very few months of my visit; and gave rise to atrocities scarcely equaled in the better known slave trade.
Layard described a series of specific Muslim depredations against the Yazidis that took place in 1832, near Mosul and Sinjar:
[Mosul] It was in spring; the river had overflowed its banks, and the bridge of boats had been removed. A few succeeded in crossing the stream; but a vast crowd of men, women, and children were left upon the great mound of Kouyunjik. The (Kurdish Muslim) Bey of Rowandiz followed them. An indiscriminate slaughter ensued…
[Sinjar] The inhabitants of the Sinjar were soon subdued after subdued by Mehemet Rashid Pasha, and a second time by Hafiz Pasha. On both occasions there was a massacre, and the population was reduced by three-fourths. The Yezidis took refuge in caves, where they were either suffocated by fires lighted at the mouth, or by the discharges of cannon.