Culture

Yazidis celebrate their New Year for the first time in 4 years

Iraq

The town of Bashiqa is home to a relatively large population of Yazidis, who have recently celebrated their New Year, in defiance of former ISIS restrictions.

On 18th April, the Yazidi community in Iraq celebrated its New Year, which they call “Sursal”. The town of Bashiq is home to a relatively large population of Yazidis, as well as other minority groups, including Shabaks and Assyrians.

Yazidis in Bashiqa visited religious shrines and where they lit candles and performed religious rites that were formerly restricted during the ISIS occupation of the region. Their celebration of the New Year is seen as an act of resistance of preservation of identity in defiance of the former totalitarian rule of ISIS.

Other traditions that were practised during the celebrations including colouring and breaking eggs, similar to the practices of Christians in the region during Easter, and offering sweets to guests. In addition, celebrations are filled with dancing and music, as well as the recitation of liturgical hymns.

Most Yazidis are concentrated in the northern regions of Iraq, especially in the Nineveh province. This includes the towns of Bashiqa, Sinjar, Sheikhan and Tal Kayf.

The Yazidi community suffered immeasurably during the ascendance of ISIS in 2013 and 2014. The region of Sinjar saw massacres of Yazidis at the hands of ISIS. Some have considered these massacres to amount to genocide.

Reports of killings, forced conversions and capturing women in order to incorporate them into a network for sex trade have been profuse over the past few years. ISIS’ totalitarian ideology dictated that the existence of Yazidis and their identity ran counter to the purist vision that ISIS had for a society based on their warped vision of Islamic law. The Yazidi community was thus considered to be a group of heretics through the lens of ISIS’ barbaric ideology.

After the liberation of Sinjar and neighbouring areas, many Yazidi women joined the ranks of the YPJ (Women’s Protection Units) in Syira to fight against ISIS militarily. Such acts of military resistance are now being complemented by a cultural resistance, which was represented on 18th April by the New Year celebrations.

Image: The National