Middle East Studies

Thomas Schmidinger

Professor of Political Science and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna

The World Forgot About Us and Europe Doesn’t Want Us: The Situation of Yazidi, Christian, and Babawat Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees from Sinjar After the Genocide of 2014

This article focuses on the region of Sinjar (Kurdish: Şingal) and the displacement of adherents of the religious minority of the Yazidi (Kurdish: Êzîdî) and other religious minorities by the so called “Islamic State”. The region of Sinjar in Iraq was the largest region inhabited by adherents of the religious minority of the Yazidi in the Middle East. Although there were other historic regions with a large Êzîdî population and although the main religious center of the Êzîdî is in the region of Shekhan (Kurdish: Şexan) to the east of Mosul, Şingal had the largest population of Êzîdî in the 20th century. However, Sinjar was not solely home to the Êzîdî but also home to a Christian minority and to heterodox Shiite of the Babawat tribe.

This article, based on field research in Sinjar and in the IDP and refugees camps in Iraq, Syria and Turkey, explores the situation of survivors of the Genocide committed by the “Islamic State” and the narratives of these survivors. Many adherents of the religious minorities who lived in Sinjar lost their trust in a future inside Iraq. They do not connect their problems just with the so called “Islamic State” (IS) but rather see IS as a continuation of Muslim (Sunni) repression against religious minorities. Many of them lost all trust in the Iraqi state and the Kurdish Institutions. The perspective of members of religious minorities who survived the violence of the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (IS) is in many cases a perspective of a confessional violence – a heavy burden for the future of such an ethnically and religiously diverse region.

Thomas Schmidinger is a political scientist and cultural anthropologist. Since 2004, he has held a lecturing position at Vienna University's Institute for Political Science, since 2011 at the University of Applied Science in Vorarlberg, in addition to supervision of MA thesis at the University of Applied Science in Vorarlberg and the Danube-University in Krems. He is a member of the Austrian Society for Kurdish Studies, LEEZA (an aid organization active in Iraq and Turkey), and the Austrian Society for Kurdish Studies as well as the Austrian Society for Political Science, and the Sudan Studies Association. He has worked as a consultant for the Austrian Journal of Political Science (ÖZP), the Austrian Journal of Sociology (ÖZS), and the Austrian Exchange Service (ÖAD). From 2010-2011, he was a research fellow at the University of Minnesota and in 2012 at the University of Prishtina (Kosovo). Since 2011 he was again a lecturer at the University of Vienna and at the Universities of Applied Sciences Vorarlberg and Linz. Since 2015 he has been an advisor for Kurdish topics in the European Parliament (MEP Josef Weidenholzer) and since 2016 he additionally lectures at the University of Applied Sciences Oberösterreich. From 2016 to 2017, he worked as research fellow at the Institute for the Sociology of Law and Criminology. Since 2018, he has been working for several research projects for the Austrian federal government, the city of Vienna and the regional government in Vorarlberg. Publications and research projects on the Middle East, the Kurds, and Jihadism (“Jihadismus”, Mandelbaum Verlag 2015, “Deradikalisierung in Haft”, IRKS 2017, “Kampf um den Berg der Kurden. Geschichte und Gegenwart der Region Afrin“, Bahoe Books 2018),…)