Son of Iraq's late Yazidi prince takes over as leader

AFP , Saturday 27 Jul 2019

Hazem Tahsin Bek on Saturday succeeded his late father as prince of the Yazidi religious minority that was brutalised by the Islamic State group in northern Iraq.

He was enthroned in a ceremony in Lalish, the Yazidis' holiest site in Iraq's mountainous northwest, after having been named by their five-member High Spiritual Council which includes Baba Sheikh, their religious chief.

The new hereditary leader, a 56-year-old former deputy in the Iraqi Kurdish parliament, is in charge of running the community and cooperating with Kurdish authorities in the north and the federal government in Baghdad.

His father, Tahsin Said Ali, died last January in Germany of a long illness after almost 75 years as head of the community, whose men were killed en masse and women and girls abducted as "sex slaves" by IS.

Of the world's nearly 1.5 million Yazidis, the largest number -- 550,000 -- lived in Iraq, with smaller numbers in Kurdish-speaking areas of Turkey and Syria.

Decades of emigration have seen sizable Yazidi populations spring up across Europe too, chiefly in Germany which is home to around 150,000.

But when IS controlled swathes of northern Iraq between 2014 and 2017, around 100,000 emigrated from Iraq to Europe, the US, Australia and Canada.

Around 360,000 members of the minority sect still live in displacement camps scattered across northwestern Iraq.

More than 6,400 Yazidis were abducted by the jihadists who consider the community heretics, of whom around 3,500 -- mostly women and girls -- have returned alive.

The rest remain missing.

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