Assessing the Destruction of Yezidi Shrines

Apparent destruction of Quba Memê Reşan (image via Islamic State on

Between (the lack of) access, confusion, fear, and propaganda, it can be very difficult to know if something is happening, or what is happening, to historic Yezidi shrines at the hands of the Islamic State. Initially, even to experts who were in the region with the community, it seemed that the Yezidi shrine of Sayeda Zeinab had been destroyed; then, it was doubted; then, it was debunked. Êzîdî Press had to deny three times that Quba Şêx Şerfedîn (Sherfedin) had been destroyed, to reassure a grief and panic-stricken community. Rumors and propaganda continued to circulate regarding the Shrine of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir (Şêx Adî) in Lalish.

But the situation is grave: Yezidi men have been rounded up and massacred; Yezidi women have been abducted, trafficked, sold, enslaved and systematically raped; and Yezidi children have been enslaved. It is standard treatment — a supposed religious requirement — for perceived polytheists and infidels in the Islamic State.

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Quba Memê Reşan before apparent destruction (image via Islamic State on

And a significant part of this program of genocide is the destruction of cultural property. Although the photographic evidence is not conclusive — because of the life-threatening circumstances in which that evidence was collected — it appears that the Shrine of Shaqsebat in Babire was destroyed in late August. Two other Yezidi sites – according to the Êzidî Press, the Shrine of Sheikh Mikhfiya and its cemetery and the Shrine of Sheikh Sin (Şêx Sin) — were destroyed at the end of August.

Most recently, despite its ever-growing commitment of fighters to the battle against the “secularist” Kurds, Shia Turkmen and Armenian Apostolic Christians of Kobane, the Islamic State has persisted in its genocide of the “polytheistic” Yezidis. The Information Office of the Nineveh Mandate of the Islamic State published yet another pamphlet of death pornography (highly graphic; link here), which included images of the demolition of a “polytheistic” shrine.

Even the Êzidî Press (@EzidiPress) has so far been unable to determine conclusively whether or not the demolished building is — or, rather, used to be – Quba Memê Reşan. Nonetheless, the building has distinctively Yezidi architecture – most notably, the ridged spire — so it is a symbol of the Yezidi community. And the images are not fake, so the building has been destroyed. The Islamic State is advancing its program of genocide. And now, the Shrine of Sherfedin and the malnourished, dehydrated civilians who have taken refuge there are under threat once more.

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