Several dozen angry Yezidis demonstrated in Yerevan on Thursday to demand that the Armenian government stand up for their ethnic kin in northern Iraq massacred and displaced by radical Islamist militants.
Holding posters and chanting “Prime Minister!” the members of Armenia’s Yezidi community demanded a meeting with Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian as they marched to his office in the city’s central Republic Square.
“Unfortunately, the Republic of Armenia is not adequately reacting to the genocide of Yezidis,” said Amo Sharoyan, a leader of the Midia Shangal community group and one of the organizers of the protest. He said Armenia should officially represent the Yezidi people on the international stage because it is home to a sizable Yezidi community making up the country’s largest ethnic and religious minority.
“We have gathered here to ask the government to represent us, Armenian Yezidis, as well as the Yezidi people as a whole in the United Nations and put this issue on the agenda of the UN General Assembly, the Council of Europe, the European Union and all other international organizations,” Sharoyan told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). He said that is critical for saving hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Yezidis from extermination.
“Why isn’t [Abrahamian] coming out to talk us?” shouted another angry protester. “He visits communities and helps them but is doing nothing about our concerns.”
Abrahamian declined to meet with the Yezidi activists. His deputy chief of his staff, Gurgen Dumanian, emerged from the building and addressed the small crowd instead. “The government has instructed the Foreign Ministry and the Foreign Ministry is dealing with the matter,” Dumanian said.
“The issue is at the center of the Armenian authorities’ attention,” the official added, pointing to the government’s decision to send $50,000 worth of humanitarian aid to Iraqi Yezidis.
It remained, unclear, what else the government and Armenian diplomatic missions abroad in particular will do about their plight. Yerevan has so far issued no official statements on deportations and mass killings that followed last week’s capture by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of Sinjar, the main Yezidi-populated city in northern Iraq.
Sharoyan urged Armenian political parties, civic groups and charities to also help the endangered community consisting of followers of an ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism. “The amount of material assistance is not important,” he said. “Attention is what matters the most.”
Yezidis were also killed in large numbers during the 1915 genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Many Yezidi survivors of those massacres found refuge in modern-day Armenia.