Yazidi villages in Turkey threatened by “village guards”

German Federal Government should also advocate for Yazidis in their traditional settlement areas

--- Göttingen, August 18, 2023 --- The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) is deeply concerned about the fact that Yazidi villages in Turkey are threatened by state-employed “village guards”. “It is especially these village guards who try to rob or plunder Yazidi villages – including arable land and pastures,” stated Dr. Kamal Sido, the STP’s Middle East Correspondent, in Göttingen on Thursday. “If the Yazidis, the rightful owners, insist on their property, they are threatened and turned away by authorities. Thus, we are calling on the German Federal Government to negotiate with NATO partner Turkey and to advocate for the Yazidis.” Tens of thousands of members of the religious community of the Yazidis were forced to leave their homes and find refuge abroad in the 1980s and 1990s – also because they refused to become village guards and fight against the PKK. Back then, Germany had taken in tens of thousands of Yazidis. Now, there are only around 600 Yazidis living in Turkey. They are demanding back their property in 30 to 40 villages in the provinces of Urfa, Mardin, Batman, Sirnak, and Diyarbakir. 

“Federal Foreign Minister Baerbock – who recently suggested new talks concerning the relationship with Turkey – should try to ensure that the few Yazidis still living in Turkey can live there in peace, and that they will be given back their land,” Sido demanded. There is the danger that the few remaining Yazidis will leave the country as well. Especially now that the German Bundestag has acknowledged the genocide crimes against the Yazidis in Iraq, the German Federal Government is under an obligation to also condemn the persecution of the Yazidis in Turkey. “Everything possible must be done to ensure that Yazidi life in Turkey will not be wiped out completely.” The Yazidis in the country are suffering from severe discrimination. The Yazidi religion is not officially recognized as a religious denomination in the Turkish constitution. 

Many Yazidis in Germany and in other countries are demanding an end to the problematic system of the village guards (“koruculuk sistemi” in Turkish), which had been implemented during the Ottoman Empire. The village guards were involved in the genocide crimes against the Christian population and the religious communities of the Alevis and the Yazidis in Kurdistan/Turkey. “Under Erdogan’s reign, the village guards are increasingly instrumentalizing Islam to harass minority groups such as the Kurdish Alevis, the Yazidis, and the Assyrian/Aramaic/Chaldean Christians,” Sido criticized. The village guards have been accused of thousands of serious crimes since the 1990s: murders, drug offenses, bride kidnapping, illegal arms trafficking, and abductions. There are at least 60,000 village guards in Turkey. They are paid by the state, similar to civil servants, and they entitled to government benefits such as healthcare. 

Contact: Dr. Kamal Sido: k.sido@gfbv.de; +49 551 499 06 18