Street theatre in Shengal: The tragedy and betrayal

The theatre group of Shengal Culture and Art Centre staged a street performance. The theme was the ISIS massacre of the Yazidi population in the region six years ago.

On 3 August 2014, ISIS attacked the Yazidi settlement Shengal in Southern Kurdistan and caused a massacre of the people. On the occasion of the forthcoming anniversary, the theatre group of Shengal Culture and Art Centre performed a street theatre in Sinûnê. Eleven actors and actresses perform in the thirty-minute play.

Traffic was interrupted for the performance on Sunday evening. People got out of their cars and came from the shops to watch the performance. The play is about the arrival of the ISIS and the withdrawal of the Peshmerga from Shengal. The audience followed the performance with great interest and final applause.

After the performance, actress Sofyan Hecî explained the theatre group's objectives, saying that the circumstances of the genocide must never be forgotten and that people must take measures to prevent the massacre from happening again: "We staged a play to mark the sixth anniversary. The people gave us a warm welcome. We thank them. We must never forget this tragedy and betrayal."

The Yazidi genocide of 2014

It is estimated that about 10,000 people fell victim to the Yazidi genocide. More than 7,000 women and children were abducted by the ISIS, more than 400,000 people were driven from their homes and thousands are still missing. The massacre not only led to a humanitarian catastrophe, but also had the goal of wiping out the Yazidi religious community. As a means to this end, the attack was systematically directed against women. Therefore this genocide in its form is at the same time also a feminicide.

When ISIS entered Shengal, the 12,000 men strong Peshmerga force of the South Kurdistan’s ruling party KDP stationed in the region withdrew without warning and left the Yazidi women living there without protection to the ISIS. For the Yazidi community the systematic massacre, rape, torture, expulsion, enslavement of girls and women as well as the forced recruitment of boys as child soldiers began. Those who were able to flee withdrew into the mountains. There, initially less than a dozen guerrilla fighters of the HPG protected the entrance to the mountains and prevented the penetration of the jihadists.

The PKK had sent a twelve-member advance team to defend Shengal on 28 June 2014 following an appeal by the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. Twenty days before the massacre, the Peshmerga arrested three members of the group and one Yazidi supporter. The remaining guerrilla fighters moved to Mount Shengal and started organizing the youth. When the ISIS attack began on August 3, a nine-member guerrilla group defended the people who had fled to Mount Shengal.

The guerrilla fighters held the road from Sinûnê to Dugirê which ran west of Shengal and did not allow the ISIS to take the mountain. The Yazidi youth drew strength from the guerrilla resistance and joined the defense of the mountain. After the nine-member guerrilla group had resisted the attacks of the ISIS for several days without food and drink, two battalions of the People's and Women's Defense Units YPG/YPJ from Rojava came to the aid of the HPG on August 6. Subsequently, the YPG/YPJ and HPG set up a security corridor to evacuate the hundreds of thousands of Yazidis who had fled to Mount Shengal. Over time, more than 200,000 Yazidis were able to reach Rojava via this corridor. Thus an even bigger massacre could be prevented. The YPG/YPJ and HPG fought self-sacrificingly and again and again even under losses to maintain this "humanitarian corridor". 100 fighters died while protecting the evacuation of the people. Altogether almost 300 female YPG/YPJ and HPG fighters were killed by the ISIS during the Shengal massacre.