Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Yazidis’

Kurdish Memory Programme

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 15th March, 2019

Kurds KMPLast night I was at BAFTA for the European launch of the Kurdish Memory Programme, a new national archive of modern Kurdish history. The Kurds often refer to themselves, with justification, as the largest nation without a country; although there are regional and cultural variations, including in the language they speak, they do have a great sense of collective identity, reinforced by generations of marginalisation and persecution. The disintegration of the Ottoman Empire after World War I should have been the opportunity for a Kurdish state to be established, but this was prevented, with the vast majority of Kurds finding themselves living as a minority in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. In varying ways, their cultural expression was suppressed. At the height of internal conflict in Turkey, many Kurdish villages were simply bulldozed away and survivors scattered.

Kurdistan a Nation EmergesIn Iraq under Saddam Hussein, genocide was perpetrated against the Kurds, most notoriously in the chemical attack on Halabja. But post-Saddam, it has been in Iraq that Kurds have built themselves a largely autonomous homeland. A few years ago, I wrote a book about this, Kurdistan: A Nation Emerges, with several colleagues. And it is under the shadow of Erbil’s impressive citadel that a magnifient museum to Kurdish identity, designed by Daniel Liebeskind, is taking shape. At the BAFTA event there was an interesting short filmed interview with the architect. However, the main film was a heart-wrenching documentary by about one Yazidi family and their fate at the hands of ISIS. Several perished, one girl was moved by ISIS fighters to a military camp in Syria before escaping, and the eldest son only managed to rejoin his relatives in Germany by fleeing through Turkey and joining a group of refugees who took the risk of going in a little dinghy to Greece. The Kurdish Memory Programme, involving an international team including the director Gwynne Roberts, is collecting many such stories. More than 1,000 interviews have been filmed, the testimonies featuring alongside 75 years of historical footage in an archive that is now available online.

Link:  https://kurdistanmemoryprogramme.com/

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Tom Holland at the Authors’ Club

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 27th October, 2017

Tom Holland historianThe Authors’ Club (founded 1891) and the Literary Circle of the National Liberal Club held their annual dinner at the NLC this evening, with guest speaker, Tom Holland, the historian. He was pleased to be in a location so closely associated with the late Victorian Prime Minister, William Gladstone, whose statue gloriously presides over the main dining room. And it was largely because of Gladstone’s zeal on behalf of the oppressed — the Bulgarians at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, for example — that Tom Holland gave a more sombre and thought-provoking talk than maybe some might have expected on a Friday night. Though perhaps best known for his popular TV series and books relating to ancient Western cultures, Holland has also delved deeply into the Persian imperial past. And it was that Middle Eastern connection that led him to Sinjar, when it was liberated from ISIS, to learn about the Yazidis.

Yazidis Sinjar Denounced as devil-worshippers by many Muslims — by no means only Salifist fanatics — the Yazidis trace their religious origins to beliefs linked to reverence for the sun and the moon that pre-date the three Abrahamic “religions of the book”. Though thought of as pagan by other groups in the region, they have actually developed a faith that is quite eclectic. But for those like ISIS who assume both a literal and an extreme interpretation of the Koran and other Islamic texts, the Yazidis’ “heresy” merits death — or in the case of nubile young girls, sexual enslavement. They suffered terribly in what Tom Holland justifiably referred to as a modern genocide, yet one that received very little attention in the West. That lack of attention, he argued, was partly a matter of timing, as the worst moments coincided with the latest (2014) Israeli pummeling of Gaza, which is a conflict more familiar to European audiences. Moreover, the Yazidis do not have an extensive diaspora — though that situation is perforce changing — and therefore there were few people to speak up about their plight. Tom Holland did so eloquently this evening, however, and in true Gladstonian spirit, he was applauded for his seriousness and human concern by his audience at the NLC>

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