ISIS Continues to Exterminate Yezidis, Yet Mainstream Media Muted in Coverage of Atrocities

no to terror protests against isis genocide of yzides, photo by kurdistan photos

no to terror protests against isis genocide of yzides, photo by kurdistan photos

IRAQ, Nineveh Province - Charlie Hebdo, a weekly magazine based in Paris, France which pilloried religion (Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism), the racist rants of extreme right entities like the nationalist National Front Party (NF), among other topics, and professed to be both secular, atheist, and left-wing in its political stance was the target of two terrorist attacks, the first in November 2011 and subsequently in February 2015.

The presumed motive for the attacks was terrorists’ response to a number of controversial Muhammad cartoons it published. In the second of these attacks, 12 people were killed, including former editor Stéphane Charbonnier and several contributors. (Source: Wikipedia)

The savagery of the latest attack coupled with the seemingly incomprehensible response by terrorists to what those in the West would consider ‘freedom of expression,’ garnered worldwide attention. The result was that news outlets around the world reported on, dissected, discussed, and speculated about this horrific event for months after the attack.

As an online media publication we understand and accept the nature of news gathering and publishing; however, as journalists and editors we should also be sensitive to appearing partisan to the point of ignoring other equally compelling news stories. Such is the case with atrocities being committed by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) against Iraqi citizens, most notably against the Yezidis.

News outlets from Turkey, Bugun and Internet Haber, both reported on an Anatolian Agency and Anadolu Ajansi (AA) story about a two-day panel “Ethnical extermination against Yezidis and Christians in Iraq” hosted on 8 February 2015 in Iraqi Kurdistan’s regional capital Erbil at Saad Abdullah Conference Hall. It was a chilling story of several Yezidi women who escaped ISIS captivity. Although the story was widely reported on across the Middle East, the same could not be said of mainstream Western media.

Iraqi President Fuad Masum attended the panel and spoke about the violence of ISIS militants. “The ISIS violence in Iraq is a crime against humanity and it is no different than what Nazis did in Germany. So far, ISIS killed 5,000 Yezidis, captured 5,000, and forcibly displaced 350,000 people of the Yezidi community including their children. The crimes against Christians are similar. The cruelty that Yezidis and Christians underwent is rarely seen in the history,” he said.

According to an AA report on Internet Haber, the women who escaped ISIS captivity spoke on safeguarding their identity to prevent retaliation by background hiding their identity for their safety by using code names. 17-year-old “Vaha” who was kidnapped along with her family by ISIS while they were trying to escape from the Tel Azer village in Sinjar in Northern Iraq told of how the militants beat her for long periods and tortured everyone without distinction of age.

The militants then separated them in three groups - men, women and young girls, and children. “They brutally killed 17 men in an open field before us. Those who were killed took their last breathe looking at their families,” Vaha said.

She said among those who were killed were her brother and her uncle. The 23 women abducted were taken to Mosul, where they joined other captives which eventually grew to 500 captives.

“We did not have food for 10 days. They were rude to people and they attacked women. We were very afraid and we did not know what to do,” she said.

A group of 20 women including Vaha were sold to a man named Abu Layd. At the place they were taken, each were given to an ISIS militant.

“I wanted to resist the man who wanted to take me. I did not want to be separated from my friends. But he beat me and took me away. I was raped and beaten every day,” she said in tears. ISIS militants bought and sold women like a piece of merchandise, or even gave them to each other as a gift.

“I have seen a 50-year-old man taking away a 5-year-old girl. They took the little girls, but none of us know what they did to them. Because they were adding something to our food, so, affecting our consciousness. Nevertheless, they were doing whatever they wanted to us,” Vaha said. “One day, the area around Mosul was under airstrikes, and the guard at our door left. We were able to escape late that night.”

21-year-old Hezal Mirzo who also talked at the panel said she witnessed many Yezidi men being executed by firing squad.

“Throughout the three month of captivity I was raped numerous times. They gave medicines to pregnant women to abort their children. They liked it when we suffered,” she said.

After staying in Mosul for a while she was taken to a school in Tel Afar. “At every different place we were taken, a different man raped us. If we resisted, they added some medicine to our food making us lose consciousness,” she said. “I had the hardest and filthiest days of my life there. We ask United Nations, Iraqi and Kurdish authorities to rescue our people from ISIS captivity. We continue our lives here, while ISIS continues to persecute more people.”

The human rights abuses perpetrated against the Yezidis, also befalls Christians and Muslims who refuse to acquiesce to ISIS, and yet this violence slips quietly unnoticed and under reported in mainstream media. In fairness, there are a few news outlets such as PBS News Hour and the Daily Mail that choose to cover the severe conditions in Iraq under the tyranny of ISIS; and the Voice of America (VOA) has recently produced a story covering the human rights abuses in Iraq, especially of the persecution of the Yezidi community, but it is not enough.

The kidnapping of the school girls by the violent, radical Islamist group Boko Haram in Nigeria received greater attention than the inhuman and reprehensible treatment of the Yezidis women and girls.

Though people were rightfully outraged and reacted strongly to the Paris terrorist attack, these atrocities that are occurring across the Middle East, like those the Yezidi community are experiencing, have not receive the same amount of coverage.

Yes, terrorist attacks and killings in Middle East have become routine occurrences, and perhaps because of this have lost their media cache; but just because an atrocity happens repeatedly or on a large scale, does not absolve us in the West of the responsibility to be more vociferous in our denouncements.

Contributing Journalist: @ElvanKatmer
LinkedIn: Elvan Katmer

Melkam Addis Amet 2014 | Happy Ethiopian New Year!

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:00 AM EDT, 09 September 2014

Young Ethiopian Girl with Flower, Photo by Tiffany

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – The Ethiopian New Year, which in Amharic is called Enkutatash, commences on 11 September 2014.  The name of this festival harkens back to the revered Queen of Sheba, who upon her return from Jerusalem where she visited King Solomon, brought with her a wealth of gold and precious stones.

In addition to these gifts, she received jewels from the Ethiopian priesthood to celebrate her safe return. These jewels are known as ‘enku’ hence the eponymous name of the holiday.

The spring festival has been celebrated since Queen of Sheba's times, as it marks the end of the rainy season and the rebirth of the year.  Like the blowing of the Shofar which is a powerful symbol of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, which translates as the ‘head of the new year’ and begins about two weeks following; bouquets of yellow flowers symbolize Enkutatash as a holiday that marks springtime and renewal.

The rituals of both holidays include prayers and sermons, but also warm family celebrations replete with food, singing, and joy.

Ethiopia still retains the Julian calendar, in which the year is divided into 12-months of 30-days each and a 13th month of 5 days and 6 days in leap year. The Ethiopian calendar is 8-years behind the Gregorian calendar from January to September and 7-years behind between September 11 and January 8.

Though Enkutatash originated as a primarily religious festival celebrated over a period of three days, and was predominantly characterized by spectacular religious processionals; it is no longer an exclusively religious holiday. Today’s Enkutatash is also the season for exchanging formal new year greetings and cards among the urban professionals, though some in the Diaspora still exchange the traditional bouquet of flowers.

For those travelers able to visit the country during this festival, it is an experience not soon forgotten, especially if invited to celebrate in the Entoto Mountains, which is the region of the country that is resplendent with yellow flowers which have come to symbolize this holiday.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

New Gospel Speaks of Jesus' Wife

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 15:42 PM EDT, 19 September 2012

Ancient Scroll, Phot by Aran TharpeOn Tuesday, 18 September 2012, Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts announced the existence of a fourth-century fragment that alludes to Jesus being married.

The announcement contradicts the assertion which has been assiduously advanced by the Catholic Church that Jesus never married. The church based this claim on a theologian known as Clement of Alexandria, who in 200 C.E. wrote that Jesus did not marry. Therein lies the controversy with King's contentious discovery.

From a sociological standpoint, as a Jewish man living at that time and in that part of the world it is highly unlikely that Jesus would have been unmarried because marriage and childbearing were and continue to be a central component of Jewish life. In fact, it is considered a 'great mitzvah,' and 'if someone intentionally does not fulfill this mitzvah is considered analogous to a murderer.'

The idea of Jesus being married has not been problematic in Judaism or Islam in which sexuality within the context of marriage is considered healthy, natural, and pleasurable. This is not to say the same of does not exists in many Christian traditions; but Catholicism seems to have historically struggled to reconcile the concept of sexual gratification and pleasure even within the confines of marriage.

According to the Torah, or Old Testament, God stated that the purpose of marriage is to produce offspring, "be fruitful and multiply" (Bereishit 1:28) and also for companionship, "It is not good for the man to be alone." (Bereishit 2:18-24)

The New Testament goes on to encourage men to marry "because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife", "it is better to marry than to burn with passion." (1 Corinthians 7:1-5)

In all three traditions, Jesus is acknowledged to have existed and died. However, Muslims like Christians, believe in his virgin birth by Mary; but unlike Christians, Muslims regard him as a mortal prophet sent by God who was not crucified but ascended to heaven like the prophet Elijah before him.

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Published: 19 September 2012 (Page 2 of 2)

An anonymous collector provided the fragment to King for authentication and it is believed to be of Egyptian or Syrian origin.  According to the Harvard website, Roger Bagnall, director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in New York, said he believed the fragment, which King has called "The Gospel of Jesus's wife," was authentic.

King first introduced her findings at the Tenth International Congress of Coptic Studies as evidence that some early Christians believed Jesus had been married.

"Christian tradition has long held that Jesus was not married, even though no reliable historical evidence exists to support that claim," King said in a statement released by Harvard.

"This new gospel doesn't prove that Jesus was married, but it tells us that the whole question only came up as part of vociferous debates about sexuality and marriage." (Source: Reuters)

King's analysis of the fragment is slated for publication in the Harvard Theological Review in January 2013. She has posted a draft of the paper, and images of the fragment, on the Harvard Divinity School website under the title, “New Early Christian Gospel From Egypt.”

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Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias

Happy Ethiopian New Year 2012

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:48 AM EDT, 7 September 2012

Happy Ethiopian New Year, Photo by Ethiopia ForumsADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – As we near the end of the religious year for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and Jews, both communities are welcoming the New Year on September 11th and September 16th respectively.

As we have every year, we once again honor our readers of both faiths on this important day that marks the conclusion of their annual calendars.

The Ethiopian New Year, which in Amharic is called Enkutatash, is celebrated concurrently with the Feast of St. John the Baptist. The name of this festival harkens back to the revered Queen of Sheba, who upon her return from Jerusalem where she visited King Solomon, brought with her a wealth of gold and precious stones.

In addition to these gifts, she received jewels from the Ethiopian priesthood to celebrate her safe return. These jewels are known as ‘enku’ hence the eponymous name of the holiday.

Like the blowing of the Shofar which is a powerful symbol of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, which translates as the ‘head of the new year;’ bouquets of yellow flowers symbolize Enkutatash as a holiday that marks springtime and renewal. The rituals of both holidays include prayers and sermons, but also warm family celebrations replete with food, singing, and joy.

Enkutatash is celebrated over a period of three days in Ethiopian and is characterized by spectacular religious processionals with individuals dressed in pristine clothing accompanied by colorful umbrellas. The main religious celebration occurs in both Addis Ababa and at Entoto Mountain. This is a region of the country that is resplendent with yellow flowers which has come to symbolize the holiday.

Congregants pray at the 14th-century Kostete Yohannes church in the city of Gaynt, while others convene at the Raguel Church in Addis Ababa. But for those in the Diaspora the Ethiopian New Year is just as vital, vibrant, and festive, and thus we would like to wish all of our friends and family Melkam Addis Amet!

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Feast, Fete, Dead Guests | Famadihana Funeral Ritual

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:24 PM EDT, 16 March 2012

Famadihana, Rewrapping Body, Madagascar, Photo by Save Your Smile

AMBOHIMIRARY, Madagascar — When people think of dancing with the dead, they usually picture the New Orleans Carnival pre-Hurricane Katrina. Carnival in that city was an admixture of ghosts, ghouls, scantily clad women and men dancing through aged alleys full of shops selling haints, potions and the occasional voodoo apothecary.

However, in Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the Coast of East Africa, the inhabitants of the small farming village of Ambohimirary actually dance with their dead. The village is 20 miles west of the nation’s capital, Antananarivo, and it is inhabited by the Malagasy who practice a ritual called famadihana (pronounced fa-ma-dee-an).

This custom entails the exhumation of the shrouded bodies of dead relatives so that they may participate in a celebration which has been organized in their honor. The festival occurs every five, seven, nine or eleven years depending on the family and the amount of resources at their disposal.

The tradition is based on the belief that spirits do not leave their bodies until they completely decompose. Although the Island nation is predominantly Catholic, and the government initially attempted to outlaw the practice, millions of Malagasy still honor their ancestors in this way.

Everyone in the town and the surrounding villages are invited to participate in the three day festival which can cost around $1.2M Malagasy Ariary or $550. It is the responsibility of the families of the deceased to pay for the festivities and provide meals up to three times a day to all the guests who can number in the hundreds.

The fete begins with the bodies being removed from the family crypt. The soiled shrouds are sprinkled with expensive perfume or sparkling wine and then wrapped in woven mats. A marching band then leads a procession of the living, which carries the often cumbersome corpses of the dead to the place designated for the joyous celebration.

The Malagasy who practice famadihana believe that this is an important rite of passage because it honors their ancestors to whom they feel they owe a debt of gratitude. They do not ascribe to the Judeo-Christian belief that man comes from mud. For them, human beings come from the body, and the boundary between life and death is fluid, thus famadihana facilitates spirit travel back and forth across the void.

What makes this custom strange to most Jews, Muslims and even Christians, is the fact that the Malagasy remove and handle the bodies. In Judaism and Islam dead bodies are unclean, and after burial more so and thus should not be touch. In all three faiths the act of removing a dead body from its final resting place is considered desecration.

But every society has its own customs, for instance in India, the Hindus and Buddhist have their unique ceremonial practices in preparing loved ones for their transition.

“In Hinduism, immediately after the death, family members close the mouth and eyes of the deceased, and put the arms straight. Minimal contact with the body is observed because the body is believed to be impure. Then, the body is placed on the floor with the feet pointing towards the south which is the direction of the dead. An oil lamp is lit and placed near the body during a three day wake.

Hindus believe that once the soul sheds the body it prepares to depart immediately on its karmic journey. Because of this, it's very important to cremate the body as soon as practicable so there is no allure for the soul to linger this side of the world.

For this reason, both Buddhists and Hindus cremate the bodies immediately, preferably on the riverbank of the Ganges, the holiest place on earth for both faiths. The Buddhists prefer immediate dispersal of the ashes over the river, while the Hindus collect the ashes in an urn for disposal in a special year-end ceremony.” (Source: Webhealing & Wikipedia)

But, in Madagascar, this small, island nation off the coast of East Africa, after three days of raucous dancing and eating, the conversations with the corpses conclude, and the families prepare to return the bodies to the crypts. Carefully caressing and redressing the bodies; they bid adieu to their relatives, with the assurance that they will be reunited soon.

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Melkam Gena | Ethiopian Christmas 2011

Melkam Gena | Ethiopian Christmas 2011

The Ethiopian church places a heavier emphasis on Old Testament teachings than one might find in any of the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic or Protestant churches, and its followers adhere to certain practices that one finds in Orthodox or Conservative Judaism. Ethiopian Christians, like some other Eastern Christians, traditionally follow dietary rules that are similar to Jewish Kashrut, specifically with regard to how an animal is slaughtered. Similarly, pork is prohibited, though unlike Rabbinical Kashrut, Ethiopian cuisine does mix dairy products with meat. Women are prohibited from entering the church during menses; they are also expected to cover their hair with a large scarf (or shash) while in church, per 1 Cor. 11. As with Orthodox synagogues, men and women are seated separately in the Ethiopian church, with men on the left and women on the right (when facing the altar). (Women covering their heads and separation of the sexes in church houses officially is common to some Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christians, as well as many conservative Protestant and Anabaptist traditions; it also is the rule in some non-Christian religions, Islam and Orthodox Judaism among them.) Ethiopian Orthodox worshipers remove their shoes when entering a church, in accordance with Exodus 3:5 (in which Moses, while viewing the burning bush, is commanded to remove his shoes while standing on holy ground). Christmas is a public holiday in Ethiopia, and on Christmas Eve's night (Christmas Eve is on January 6, Christmas on January 7), Christian priests carry a procession through town carrying umbrellas with fancy decorations. (Christmas is called Ganna in Ethiopia) Then the procession finally ends at local churches where Christmas mass is held. (Christmas mass can also be held on Christmas morning). Then on Christmas morning, the people open presents and then they play outdoor sports (that are native to Africa) to celebrate. Usually the wealthy shares a medium-sized feast with the poor and a large feast with their family and friends.

Dishes include Doro Wat and Injera. Most people usually put up decorations that symbolize something relating to Christmas, like a male infant to represent the birth of Christ, or a small Christmas tree to represent Christmas decorations. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Friendship? Palestine and Israel.....

"A fresh start is nearly impossible wherever there’s a history of violence." Radio Netherlands Worldwide began the new year with a "program that shows people around the world can make new beginnings with old enemies. Stories include: a Palestinian and an Israeli teenager who overcame their fears to become best friends; a Muslim and a Hindu filmmaker whose relationship was tested and strengthened while working in conflict-torn Kashmir; a man in Zimbabwe who now preaches against the intertribal violence he once took part in. We also feature an essay from Sri Lanka about overcoming caste divisions, and another from a survivor of Sarajevo with her reflections on the war crimes trial of Radovan Karadzic." Source: The State We’re In, 2 January 2010

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