A London-based Jewish businessman attended the first conference on the genocide of the Yazidis and pleaded for Iraq to return to its diverse and tolerant past.
Speaking at the conference in Erbil, organised by the Kurdish Rudaw Research centre, Edwin Shuker, who had escaped the country in 1971, pledged his solidarity with the persecuted Yazidi minority ‘as an Iraqi’. Chronicling the persecution that beset the ‘ethnically cleansed’ Iraqi-Jewish community as he was growing up, the 63-year-old Baghdad-born Shuker urged Iraqis to uproot D’aesh – Islamic State – not just physically, but from their hearts.
Mindful of those who have denied the Holocaust, he advised the Yazidis to keep records of their sufferings so that it would be harder to deny them in the future.
He urged the Yazidis not to emigrate but to remain wedded to their 6,000-year old culture and educate their children about Yazidism.
Edwin Shuker said he had prayed at the tomb of the prophet Jonah in Mosul – a Jewish prophet in a Muslim shrine in a Christian city – that the tolerance that all religions had known in Iraq should again prevail.
Up to 4,000 Yazidis were massacred on Mount Sinjar in 2014 in what the international community has recognised as a genocide. Many were forced into exile from their ancestral lands, sold into slavery and forcibly converted to Islam.