Barakat Ali, professional tambur musician, interviewed by Amy L. Beam:
Daesh smashed all the tamburs in Shingal as part of their goal to destroy Yazidi culture. Barakat Ali, professional Yazidi tambur musician from Khanasor, Shingal, explained why in an interview with Amy L. Beam.
I have been playing the tambur since I was eleven. Now I have memorized 250 historical songs which preserve the history of genocides against Yazidis.
In the days after Daesh went on their killing rampage through the villages and city of Shingal on August 3, 2014, they returned and stole everything from our houses. Photos showed up on the internet of stolen refrigerators, stoves, washing machines, TVs, and furniture being sold by Arabs in big open air market places. They even ripped out kitchen and bathroom sinks. Nothing remained in any house except broken glass and scattered pieces of torn clothing.
When I returned to see the damage to my home after Khanasor was freed from Daesh, I found all three of my tamburs smashed. Instead of stealing the tamburs, Daesh left the pieces in every house as a symbol to insult our religion. I brought the pieces for memories, nothing more.
But if we want to be sorry about something, there are a lot of things more important than this, such as what happened to our girls and our women and children, innocent people like old people. Daesh killed people and cut their heads off and did a lot of criminal things against Yazidi people. They destroyed our houses and took all of our property.
They broke everything, because they wanted to wipe out our culture. They wanted to break everything, not just our tambur, but what it represents to us.
Daesh knew from the Arabs around our area that the tambur is holy as a religious instrument in our culture. We kiss it before we play a song. For many years our fathers and grandfathers were saying the tambur is a holy instrument in our culture. If you are not serious and talented enough on it, then you are not allowed to play it.
Many genocides happened to us in the past. We knew they were repeating. Those people who were attacking us tried to break everything we have. They burned our books, so that is why we depend on keeping the songs in our mind. They can destroy my tamburs, but they cannot destroy my memory. Someone gave me a new tambur, and now I am singing again. I wrote a new song, “Dedication for the Kidnapped.”
These historical songs are mostly about genocide. Those songs that are not about genocide are about love, but that love is giving you a history of when Yazidis were in Turkey and had to run away. Maybe 75% of Yazidis in Kurdistan originally came from Turkey.
Yazidi people were attacked by the Ottoman Empire military to force them to convert to Islam, but they refused like we are refusing right now. I remember my father telling me about these stories and teaching me our history when I was a boy. He said there were 350 Yazidi villages around Siirt in the south of Turkey. The Turkish government was attacking the Yazidis, forcing them to run from Turkey.
The Kurdish people were originally Yazidis. They followed our religion, not Islam. When the Muslims in the Ottoman Empire attacked them, they gave them two choices. Either you are going to be Muslim or you are going to be killed. Since they didn’t want to be killed, children or old people who were unable to run had to convert. So that is how the Kurds became Muslim. The Kurds used to follow the Yazidi religion, but they were forced to convert to Islam, and now they’re Muslim.
The able-bodied people like us and our fathers ran. They survived in the mountains. We still live near mountains, so we are just preparing for the next genocide. Shingal has a mountain range in the middle and none of the villages is very far from the mountain. The villages are on the flat Nineva plain where wheat is grown, about 5 or 10 kilometers from the mountain, but before, they were closer. After Saddam Hussein controlled Iraq, he pushed the villages back farther from safety.
If you go to see our old villages from a few decades ago, most of them are very close to the mountain. In fact, most are inside the mountain. Now they are just ruins. Yazidis have always been near mountains to run to safety.
The genocides against Kurds and Yazidis have been going on for decades, maybe centuries. All these areas, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, were under the control of the Ottoman Empire. They made that decision to come to kill Yazidi people. They made that genocide. They committed that genocide to make Yazidi people convert to Islam. But Yazidis never converted to any other religion, because we are Yazidis and will always be Yazidis. We believe in God, so we don’t want to convert to any other religion. It’s not a good decision to force people to change their religion.
Shingal has been the homeland for Yazidis for many years ago, but not originally. Myself, I am originally from Khattari which is in the Kurdistan region, nearby Mosul. As the Yazidis kept being attacked, they ran to Shingal. Yazidis have been running for centuries. I heard our population used to be 83 million, and now we are under one million.
Video Interviews with Barakat Ali playing tambur and singing:
- Barakat Ali and Amy L Beam – Part 1: Tambur and Yazidi History interview
Barakat interview explains DAESH smashed all the tamburs (musical instrument) to wipe out the Yazidi culture. Yazidi songs are used as oral history of genocides. Arabs were our friends before the genocide. How Kurds became Muslim. Why Yazidis live by mountains.
- Barakat Ali and Amy L Beam – Part 2: Yazidi Mirza
This songs tells the true story of how Yazidi Mirza won control of Mosul and took revenge for the murder of this two young brothers for taking two melons from a farmer’s garden.
- Barakat Ali and Amy L Beam – Part 3: Fariq Pasha Genocide
This song memorializes Yazidi hero, Mohammad Abdul, who stopped Fariq Pasha’s Ottoman army from controlling Shingal at the end of World War 1.
- Barakat Ali and Amy L Beam – Part 4: Saferika Wallatey Hatta
History of how 350 Yazidi villages were destroyed around Siirt, Turkey. Yazidis were forced to convert to Islam or flee to Kurdistan area in Iraq.
- Barakat Ali and Amy L Beam – Part 5: Dedication for the Kidnapped
Barakat tells how his family fled from Shingal, August 3, 2014, when DAESH attacked. A Kurdish Muslim family took them in in Kurdistan. Arabs in Rabbia shot at Yazidis escaping. More than 3000 Yazidis are still kidnapped by DAESH.
- Barakat Ali and Amy L Beam – Part 6: Aysha Bali
Love song commissioned by an Yazidi husband whose wife died.
- Barakat Ali and Amy L Beam – Part 7
Barakat talks about the IOM process for Iraqi interpreters for his family to immigrate to Lincoln, Nebraska. He eloquently explains what will be necessary for Yazidis to return to Shingal.
Dr. Amy L. Beam is Executive Director of “Amy, Azadi and Jiyan” (AAJ) humanitarian organization registered in Kurdistan. She is a researcher, writer, and human rights activist for Yazidis and Kurds in the Middle East. Since ISIS attacked Shingal in August 2014, Beam has assisted the displaced Yazidis, especially the women, girls, and children who have been rescued from ISIS captivity. She is currently writing a book on the Yazidi genocide and continuing to collect eye witness testimonies. Follow her on her public Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmyLBeam . Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org