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Outrage after Syrian regime imposes Sharia on Yazidis, minority targeted by genocide in neighbouring Iraq Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff

Outrage after Syrian regime imposes Sharia on Yazidis, minority targeted by genocide in neighbouring Iraq

Thousands of Yazidis live in the north of Syria [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 February, 2021

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The Yazidi Council of Syria has condemned the decision as a 'flagrant violation' of human rights.
The Syrian regime has imposed Islamic personal status laws on the Yazidi community, sparking outrage and fears for the ethnoreligious minority that faced genocide in neighbouring Iraq.

A Justice Ministry circular issued on Sunday ruled that the Yazidi minority were not exempt from Islamic personal status laws, essentially terming the religion a sect of Islam rather than an independent religion.

Members of the community had earlier applied to form a Yazidi religious court to oversee family disputes and other issues of personal status.
That right is afforded to members of the Christian, Jewish and Druze religious minorities under Syrian law.

Yazidis who hold Syrian citizenship will be forced to resolve issues of personal status in Islamic Sharia courts, according to the circular.

Members of the minority who do not hold Syrian citizenship will be referred to civil courts and treated as foreigners, the Justice Ministry said.

The application of Islamic religious law has sparked outrage among members of the Yazidi community in Syria.
Read more: Displaced Yazidis fear loss of land in Syria


The Yazidi Council of Syria slammed the move as a "flagration violation of the most basic principles of human rights".

Not only was the circular discriminatory to Yazidis in general by refusing to recognize them as a religion, the council said, it was also discriminatory against Yazidis who were stripped of their Syrian citizenship in the past.

A 1962 census stripped some 120,000 Syrian Kurds, among them Yazidis, of their citizenship over claims they were "foreign infiltrators". Thousands of Iraqi Yazidis also fled to northeastern Syria over the course of the Iraq war.

Up to 40,000 Yazidis live in Syria today, mostly in the northern provinces of Hasakah and Aleppo. 

The ancient ethnoreligious minority has long been subjected to persecution over allegations of Satanism or "devil worship". Those claims are unfounded.

Yazidi lore holds that the group has faced 72 genocides over the course of its history.

Most recently, the Yazidi community in Iraq was targeted by the Islamic State group in what human rights groups and the United Nations have recognised as a genocide.

Around 5,000 Yazidis were killed by the extremist group, and thousands of Yazidi women and girls were forced into sexual slavery.

Yazidis living in the Afrin region of north-western Syria have also reported harassment and persecution by Turkish-backed opposition fighters in recent years.

Yazidi shrines and graves in Afrin have also suffered looting and desecration, according to a United Nations report published last year.

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