After the Last ‘Firman’
Victimhood, Survival and Societal Transformation among the Yazidis
- Read analyses based on the project at the Monkey Cage Blog of the Washington Post:
- A workshop among investigators will take place on UCF campus on February 28. The workshop will be followed by an international conference titled “Politics of Borders, Refugees, and Identities: The Kurdish Experience in the Middle East” on March 1.
- A paper about methodological and ethical issues encountered during the fieldwork was presented on August 30, 2018 at the 114th American Political Science Association Annual Meeting and Exhibition in Boston.
- Bayar Sevdeen spends the fall 2018 semester as an Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability fellow at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University. As a part of his fellowship, he is working on societal transformations among the Yazidis after the last genocidal violence.
- A paper on the impact of the Yazidi genocide on gender norms and practices will be presented in a seminar organized by HL-Senteret in Oslo in December 2018.
In 2014, the Yazidi- a religious community with historical roots in the Sinjar area of northern Iraq – had repeatedly been targeted by the Islamic State’s (IS) violence against the Yazidis, resulting in mass executions, enslavements, and displacements: thousands of Yazidis were executed and large numbers of women and children were taken hostages and subsequently sold as slaves. The violence IS executed has been unprecedented even by its own vicious standards. While the Yazidis have historically developed a strong sense of existential threat perception as a marginalized minority, the IS assault has pushed the community to the brink of survival. Most of Sinjar remains inhabitable and many surviving Yazidis continue their existence as displaced people and refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan and Western countries.
This project is a collaboration among the University of Central Florida, London School of Economics and Political Science, and the American University of Kurdistan. It brings together scholars from the United States, Iraqi Kurdistan, and the United Kingdom to offer a unique social science perspective on the Yazidi religious community in the wake of genocidal violence. The project addresses a series of questions about three dimensions of Yazidi religion by empirically focusing on the lived experience of Yazidis: (1) the transformation and resiliency of Yazidi beliefs and norms in the wake of the genocidal violence, (2) the evolution of gender relations among the Yazidis in the wake of sexual enslavement of Yazidi women, and (3) the nature of relations between Yazidis and Sunni Arabs and Kurds. While IS atrocities against the Yazidis have received significant media attention, their lingering effects on Yazidis’ lives and relations between them remain unexplored.
The international research team conducts dozens of in-depth interviews with Yazidis in Dohuk province of Iraqi Kurdistan to analyze the group’s experience. The extensive fieldwork is essential to understand how the aforementioned dimensions will transform the Yazidis as a result of the collective trauma they recently experienced. The project will make a significant contribution to the study of religious minorities and their experiences of violence through a focus on the understudied case of the Yazidis.
The project is funded through an international collaboration grant from the Global Religion Research Initiative (GRRI), the George Washington University, and University of Notre Dame for the expected time frame of May 2018 to May 2019. The Institutional Review Board (IRB) of UCF granted approval for the study in April 2018 (SBE-18-13819).
* All photos were taken by the research group during fieldwork in Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan.