Iraqi Ezidis Celebrate Restoration of Temple Destroyed By Isis
Northern Iraq's Ezidi community that suffered so terribly under Islamic State (ISIS) persecution celebrated on Friday (January 12) as it inaugurated a restored temple to the sound of traditional drums and flutes.
Overlooked by conical domes of polished stone, hundreds of men in dishdasha robes and women veiled in white gathered at the site, which was blown up by the rampaging militants in 2014.
The temple at Bashiqa was one of 68 Ezidi temples destroyed by ISIS, officials said -- and one of the last of 23 in the region to be restored.
Iraq's Kurdish-speaking Ezidis adhere to a faith that emerged in Mesopotamia more than 4,000 years ago.
It is rooted in Zoroastrianism but has, over time, integrated elements of both Islam and Christianity.
Ezidis pray to God facing the sun and worship his seven angels -- the most important of which is Melek Taus, or Peacock Angel.
The Ezidi community in Iraq comprised some 550,000 people before it was scattered by the ISIS offensive.
Beginning on August 3, 2014, the militant ISIS group murdered Ezidis in the thousands and abducted 6,383 women and teenage girls as slaves.
According to the religious affairs ministry in the Kurdistan Region, some 360,000 Ezidis were displaced by the fighting and 100,000 have left the country.
Of 6,417 Ezidis reported kidnapped by the militants, just 3,207 have been rescued or managed to escape their captors. Half of those still missing are women and girls, the ministry said.
To date, 47 mass graves of Ezidis massacred by ISIS have been discovered.
U.N. investigators have said the ISIS assault on the Ezidis was a premeditated effort to exterminate an entire community -- crimes that amount to genocide.
Friday's ceremony at the temple in the Bashiqa area some 15 kilometres (nine miles) east of Iraq's second city Mosul was an act of both revival and defiance.
"This ceremony shows that life has returned despite the terrorism of ISIS and its bloody attacks," said 21-year-old Jihan Sinan.
Around her, families posed for pictures as traditional dishes and sweets were handed out and celebrants danced to the tunes of traditional flutes.
Religious leader Ali Rashwakari, 72, urged the international community to help "rebuild the temples and Ezidi regions" of Iraq.