Yazidis in the northern Iraqi town of Bashiqa are rebuilding shrines that were destroyed by ISIS militants. The group blew up dozens of Yazidi places of worship and religious symbols after entering northern Iraq in June 2014 as part of their nihilistic campaign to eradicate minorities and uproot the Yazidis from their homeland.
Volunteers have been working to remove the rocks, stones and debris left behind by the assault on their shrines. Even in the soaring heat, the volunteers – both young and old – are resolutely determined to rebuild their holy sites.
“We are the people of good, we build what the people of evil have destroyed,” said one man. “We represent good, while they, evil. They destroy, we build.”
The total cost of reconstructing these holy sites is estimated to be 220 million Iraqi Dinar, just under $200,000. Money is collected from local families, internally displaced people, and Yazidis in the diaspora who fled Iraq after 2014. So far, 8 shrines have been rebuilt out of a total 23, highlighting that further work is still to be completed.
Among the most important shrines, however, is that of Malik Miran, whose identity rests on two traditions of Yazidi thought. According to one narrative, he is the ancestor of the Yazidis himself, while the other tradition identifies him with the Prophet Noah.
The affliction befalling the Yazidi population has been well documented. ISIS militants, during the group’s entry into northern Iraq, carried out systematic killings of the Yazidi population, separated families, and took young women and girls as sex slaves.
One of the worst massacres happened in the village of Kocho, which Yazidis call “the mother of all massacres”. The town was recently liberated in May by the Lalish and Kocho Battalions within the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) as part of the wider campaign to liberate Mosul and Nineveh Province.
Yazidis also remember the genocide in Sinjar when ISIS militants moved on the city from Mosul and carried out wide scale killings of Yazidis. Recently, Yazidis in northern Iraq came together to commemorate the 3rd anniversary of the brutal attack on their people.