The Lalish temple complex is the holiest Yazidi site where sacred shrines and caves
with tombs are located. A Feraş (servant) who is unmarried and youth lights every
day 365 candles in certain places all over the temples and is accompanied by an older man and woman.
The Yazidis - Where to go from here?
since 2015 (ongoing)
When I was a kid I played together with Yazidis in a multicultural football team in Oldenburg, Germany. Already then I was aware of their religion and their struggle as a minority in the Middle-East, however I later left the city and I only heard about Yazidis again in 2014.
On the 3rd August 2014 the terrorists of the Islamic State perpetrated an attack on the Yazidi people in Shingal, North Iraq, which displaced 300.000 people and claimed thousands of victims that were massacred or taken in captivity. Since then the internally displaced persons are forced to stay in refugee camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq .
Yazidism is a 4000 year old religion from the Middle East which originated in ancient Mesopotamia, a region where humans for the first time settled in communities during the Neolithic Revolution. Their belief is monotheistic and syncretistic and it has simmilarities with the Islam, Christianity and ancient Mesopotamian religions like Zoroastronism. For a long time they have been stigmatized as infidels and devil worshipers due to lack of knowledge of their religious practices.
Even though the Islamic State is defeated, there are now territorial hegemony conflicts between the central Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) as the Shingal region belongs to one of the disputed territories between Kurds and Arabs. Now the region is controlled by Iraqi forces again as the KRG withdrew its troops at the end of 2017. However, the Yazidis as a minority are still caught in the middle of this conflict without a possibility to change anything about it.
In 2014 I met Mammo Kasem, a Yazidi who fled from Shingal to Germany due to death threats he had received from extremists even before the genocide happened. His family fled from Shingal while the Islamic State attacked them and Mammo Kasem went through some horrific times as he was thousands of miles away from his family without any contact. Luckily nobody was harmed and they found shelter in a refugee camp in Turkey. There I started documenting their situation and how Mammo Kasem´s family later came to Germany: this was the starting point of my long-term photoessay about the Yazidis.
Since then I continously work on my photographic essay which should give a comprehensive view about the Yazidis. I visited religious places and festivals which are important for their culture. I met people and visited places which have been affected by the events in August 2014 and documented their stories and conditions. My approach is to create a visual narrative about Yazidi people: their identity, their religion and the status quo of the Yazidi community.
Where to go from here?
Photography, Text, Layout: © Marcus Wiechmann 2017