hile we worry about the
Gaza/Iraq/Syria/Ukraine/Ebola situations, the enormous human tragedy of the
genocide of the Yazidi people at the hands
of the bloodthirsty Islamic State has only
just started to get world attention. Their
situation is far worse than that of the
Christians in the region, who are also
under severe persecution.
The Yazidis are a minority resident in
The Yazidis number perhaps half a million and are among the poorest
people in the region. They are neither united nor armed. No one in the
world is their champion. The Christians in Northern Iraq quickly evac-
uated and the church helped them. The Yazidis are only now starting to
move, mostly on foot, with a few belongings on their backs. The Kurds
in Iraq and adjoining areas of Syria are helping them a bit, in their des-
perate bid to reach Turkey somehow.
A large group was besieged on Mount Sinjar without food or even
water on hilltops while in flight. That is when the United States took
note of their plight and air-dropped relief packages. President Barack
Obama has announced bombing of the IS positions as a means of support to the Yazidis.
Why should we worry about these people? They are most likely the
direct descendants of the Mitanni population, an ancient Indo-Aryan
people. I first learnt about them when I read Haunting Echoes in the
Fog of History: Evolution of Sanskrit and its Derivatives by Dr Sudhir
Savkar (Snehavardhan Publishing, Pune, 2009).
This slim volume is obviously a labor of much love, because Dr Savkar
is a mechanical engineer who spent his entire working career with the
The Mitanni probably migrated westward from India. Their language
closely resembles the Sanskrit and the Apabhramsa of the third and
second millennium BCE. The first stirrings of the Vedas were most like-
ly felt here at that time, although it took several more centuries for
these scriptures to acquire the written form.
The unspeakable horror the IS has let loose on these poor, unarmed,
I saw on CNN a family headed by a man well past 70 with an equally
old wife. They had walked for 10 hours straight. When the correspon-
dent expressed his amazement, the man said stoically that when death
stares at you every step, you have no choice but to keep a foot ahead of
it. I have seldom seen more moving, poignant, scenes. The veteran
What should the world do? If ever there was a case for a unani- mous, unqualified global intervention in a conflict, this is it. A
multilateral force under the United Nations (with Indian participation)
must be quickly mobilized for the limited and sole purpose of stopping
this genocide, an unspeakable crime against all humanity, and evacuat-
ing safely its victims, the Yazidis and the Christians.
The warring factions of the region could then be left to their own
devices. Boots on the ground will work, not mere bombing.
After its initial strafing of IS positions and air-dropping of food and
water to the Mount Sinjar crowd, the US now says that further ground
action to rescue the Yazidis may not be necessary. Astonishingly, the
official statement claimed that only thousands were stranded on Mt
Sinjar, not tens of thousands as claimed earlier.
Does shading an order of magnitude reduce the agony of the Yazidis
or make the situation more tolerable?
The ground action is now entirely in the hands of Kurdish forces,
since the Iraqi troops are mainly engaged in protecting Baghdad from
IS and internal dissensions within the Iraqi polity. The Kurds are poorly
equipped to fight the vastly superior IS, armed to the teeth through
their capture of deadly weaponry from Iraqi forces, and drawing thousands of jihadists from all over the world, including into their ranks.
Where are the talking heads, whose hearts bleed nightly on Indian
channels for the Arabs in Gaza or the Muslims in
Moradabad/Meerut/Muzaffarnagar? They denounce the government
for not taking a strong position on West Asia. How about their condemning unequivocally the IS barbarians for this genocide?
And will the new government, largely of the Bharatiya Janata Party,
whose manifesto proclaimed ‘India shall remain a natural home for
persecuted Hindus and they shall be welcome to seek refuge here’ and
whose patrons never tire of the glories of our civilization in antiquity,
stand up for these long-lost cousins?
Speak up, World, and act!
Shreekant Sambrani taught at the Indian Institute of Management-
Ahmedabad and helped set up the Institute of Rural Management,
Will the new Indian government whose patrons never tire of the
glories of our civilization in antiquity, stand up for these long-lost cousins,
the Yazidis in Iraq, asks Shreekant Sambrani
CANVAS OF CONFLICT M6 Displaced people from the minority Yazidi sect fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar, Iraq, walk towards the Syrian border August 11.
RODI SAID/REUTERS SPEA