A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Yet Another Minority, the Shabak, are Targeted in Iraq

The latest car bombing in Iraq,in a displaced persons camp in a town near Mosul, has apparently targeted the minority Shabak community, killing at least 11.

While the violence in Iraq most often is sectarian between Sunni and Shi‘a, it is also frequently directed against non-Muslim minority populations. The frequent attacks on Iraqi Christians, mostly Assyrians and Chaldeans, are well known  and have led to a growing flight of Christians to Assyrian and Chaldean diasporas in the West. There have also been attacks against the Mandaean and Yazidi religious minorities.

The Shabak are another one of Iraq's minor religious/ethnic minorities, with some similarities to and affinities with the larger Yazidi community, who live in the same general region. (Note: the link is to the Wikipedia article and Wikipedia is dark today in a protest action. You can access the link by turning off Javascript in your browser, or can wait until tomorrow if you don't know how.)

They are, like the Yazidis, a syncretistic religion with elements of Islam, Christianity, and older faiths. They speak a form of Kurdish, but their scripture is written in Turkmen.

These tiny, relic communities may seem like anachronistic curiosities, but they are a reminder of the palimpsest of migrations, conquests, and faiths that swept over the Fertile Crescent over the millennia. And they have few defenders. At least international Christian groups regularly protest attacks on Iraqi Christians, though with little result since the attackers are radical Islamists. Even the Mandaeans and the Yazidis have some support from diaspora populations in Europe. Most people have never heard of the Shabak. Nor do I expect this to be on the evening news. That's why I brought it up.

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