August 9, 2017 / 3:04 PM / 4 months ago

Long wait for captive Yazidis' return spent rebuilding shrine in Iraq's Bashiqa

BASHIQA, Iraq (Reuters) - Yazidi men and boys in the town of Bashiqa north east of Mosul are rebuilding a shrine destroyed by Islamic State as they wait for the return of women from their community taken captive years ago by the jihadists.

They are hoping to celebrate their first religious festival for three years in the Malak Miran shrine next month but the big celebration will happen after the release of Yazidi women, taken by Islamic State when it overran the plain of Nineveh in 2014.

More than 3,000 Yazidis, mostly from Sinjar to the west of Bashiqa, were killed - with more than half shot, beheaded or burnt alive - and about 6,800 taken for sex slaves or fighters.

Islamic State fighters are now reportedly selling captive women and girls before they make their escape from their beseigned Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, according to the U.N.

“The real festival will come when all our captives are freed,” said the shrine’s supervisor, Shaker Haidar al-Mujewar.

Volunteers come every day to help with the rebuilding and they gather from time to time for prayers in the unfinished temple, clustering around candles to recite prayers in the local Kurdish dialect.

Workers from the minority Yazidi sect, gather at Yazidi Shrine which is being rebuilt after it was destroyed by Islamic State, in Bashiqa, a town near Mosul, Iraq August 8, 2017. Picture taken August 8, 2017. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily

Residents and other Yazidi families are funding the reconstruction, Mujewar said.

Yazidis in Bashiqa were able to escape before Islamic State seized the town and the militants were driven out in November 2016, about a month after the start of the offensive to retake Mosul, the northern city used by the militants as their capital.

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Many of Bashiqa’s families are still living in camps.

Bashiqa is now under the control of the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters who helped take it back from Islamic State. The Sinjar mountain, the other main area of Yazidi settlement in Iraq, is also under Kurdish control.

The Yazidi faith combines elements from various ancient Middle Eastern beliefs. Eid Hajjin, the Yazidi festival which falls early September, celebrates Abraham, a prophet they have in common with Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

The shrine is closely associated with Abraham as Yazidi religion says it was Malak Miran, or the Angel Miran, who saved the prophet from the biblical King Nimrod’s furnace of fire.

Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Louise Ireland

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