[ by Charles Cameron — in which a sunni sheikh protects a yazidi family ]
I seldom make comparisons that strike me as demonstrating moral equivalence as such — mostly I intend the juxtapositions I present to illustrate some parallelism or opposition that’s worthy of note as one aspect of a bigger picture, but by no means the whole. Often such an aspect will add nuance to the broader picture, sometime by contrasting with the overall impression. I relish those opportunities to see more that the first glance would tell me, to begin probing, digging deeper into a particular situation or issue.
Here though, I think I may have stumbled onto a juxtaposition that does reveal a moral equivalence — in this case, a Sunni tribal leader standing in the same relation to the Yezidis he saved as one or another of the Righteous Among the Nations does to a Jewish person, family, or group they saved.
The details of tribal anthropology in the Sunni-Yazidi case — which would be of interest no doubt to our friend David Ronfeldt — are fascinating in themselves:
Fadel was a wealthy Sunni, and a tribal leader from the Shammar tribe, one of the world’s largest and most influential Arab tribes. He was also a close friend of the family.
When Fadel found out where the family was, he rushed to the IS headquarters in Kocho, where he negotiated with the local militant leaders. “Please, let me take them with me,” he told them. “They belong with me.”
While thousands of other Yazidi women and children were transferred to other places in Iraq and Syria – and most of the Yazidi men were killed on the spot – Nadine and her children, along with dozens of their relatives, were taken to the tribal leader’s house in Ba’aj, a small town in Nineveh governorate.
Immediately, the family buried their mobile phones and Yazidi clothing. It was the beginning of a long period in hiding.
But why would the local sheikh go to such lengths to protect this Yazidi family? The families go way back and have a long history together, explained Nadine. He was their ‘krive‘ – a kind of godfather or patron. “And he had promised to protect us,” Nadine said.
Just like Muslims, Yazidis circumcise their young boys. During the ceremony, the man who holds the boy on their lap is considered his godfather, or “blood brother” – or krive.
Before 2003, the krive was often historically selected from among religious families or even influential Muslim families. Yazidis believe that this creates a special bond between two clans; they have to respect and protect each other whenever needed.
But the ritual shared between the two religious groups declined amid Iraq’s sectarian violence, and after the Yazidi genocide in 2014, it completely disappeared.
Note here the role of circumcision, adding nuance to the parallel with Judaism. Ritual here is not some form of “dry as dust” repetition, but the instrument of deep, indeed life-saving human bonding.
As so often, I wish I knew more — and in the meantime, I am grateful to those such as Oscar Schindler, Fadel of the Shammar, and so many others — the righteous protectors.
Nadine Naif and family, your story brings me hope. Fadel, I salute you.
[ by Charles Cameron — another amazing twitter thread collated for easier reading ]
When I was in Syria, ISIS women told me how Yazidi slaves had to endure virginity tests, rapes &jealous ISIS wives. Today marks 3yrs after horrible ISIS slaughter of Yazidis in Sinjar. At least 3100 male Yazidis killed, 7000+ women &children enslaved. Yazidis have testified about ISIS crimes extensively. But rarely have ISIS members spoken about topic of Yazidi slavery. That’s why during my stay in Syria I specifically asked captured ISIS wives to tell me their version of slavery stories. Very disturbing. I will now translate my interview with Lebanese ISIS wife on slavery of Yazidis. You can see her interview in 1st tweet of this thread.
When ISIS took Sinjar, all Yazidi men they found were killed. ISIS considers them real kuffar (unbelievers) so they had to be killed. The women, they were all gathered. They (ISIS) told the women: “Take off your clothes”. And then ISIS brought a doctor to inspect them. The ISIS doctor checked who is virgin and who is married. Because otherwise ISIS cannot know who is virgin and who is not a virgin. Upon inspection the doctor would say: ‘This is a virgin, this not.’ ISIS then separated the virgins from the none virgins. They also collected the none adult males (they call them abeed or male slaves) and they separated them into a different group too. Many ISIS soldiers participated in the Sinjar battle and afterwards every fighter got a sabiya (female Yazidi slave) as a gift. All soldiers were happy to get female slaves, because they could have sex with them. Slave owners offered own slaves to their friends. Each day a different friend slept with slave. Sometimes they slept with slave from back (anal intercourse). It’s forbidden in Islam. They end up taking slaves 2hospital because they got injured from way they had sex with them. Some of slaves were really young in age. When they sleep with the young girls, they start bleeding, so ISIS fighters sometimes would take them to the hospital for treatment. When it reached al-Baghdadi how fighters were sleeping with slaves, he didnt accept that. This isn’t way to deal with slaves, he said. Baghdadi told ISIS fighters: Slave owners must do sharia/religious course. This course will teach you rules on how 2deal with slavery. After completion of sharia course, ISIS fighters kept slaves to themselves. And didn’t allow friends to have sex with their slaves. Also a new rule: If you want to sell your slave, you have 2wait until she passes 1 menstrual cycle before new owner can sleep with her. Later selling slaves became a business. ISIS fighter would buy a slave for $1000. Then he sells her for 3000 dollars to make profit. There was slave auctions. 1fighter said: “I want for my slave $10.000.” Others said: “No mine is better, she’s virgin,$20.000 for her!”
I sat in shock listening to this emotionless ISIS wive. Then I asked if her own husband had a slave.
My first husband, who was Lebanese, had a friend who owned a female (Yazidi) slave. He asked my husband’s help to sell his slave. My husband explained to him: There is a Telegram channel, it is called ‘Souk lil Sabaya’. All the fighters of ISIS are in this group. saw many pics on this telegram channel. ISIS puts pics of slave w/good clothes, makeup, showing her body to get best selling price. “ISIS fighters start bidding for slave. If she’s beautiful, high price. If she’s pretty &virgin VERY expensive. Some sold for $30.000. My husband was on that channel, selling &buying slaves. Friend of husband loved 2have slaves, always changing them, sleeping with them. If he wants to buy a slave, he not only wants to see pic, he will touch her body. He checks if it’s good for him, if her breasts OK… Some ISIS guys ask: We will not buy slave until we see it all, they have to undress. Others were okay with seeing only pic and buy. Some (ISIS fighters) would say: I want to see her naked, why should I get cheated and get a bad quality slave? In Raqqa there was market for slaves. I can’t remember which day. When it’s slave market, it gets so crowded esp Saudi ISIS fighters. ISIS fighters start fighting in market over slaves. And when they take slave home, their wives fight with them bcz they feel jealous. Some ISIS fighters would treat their female slaves better than their own wives. He will buy for the slave make-up &nice clothes. Some (ISIS) fighters will basically treat their slave good for personal reasons because he wants to sleep with her. Others would treat their slave good because they want to sell the slave and you get more money when the slave looks good. It’s just like when you are selling a car, you have to show the car in its best condition to get the best price. Same goes for slaves.
My Lebanese husband, he did not mind having a slave. But he did not have enough money to buy one. My current Tunisian (ISIS) husband he did not want to have a slave. His friend gave him one slave as a gift, but he didn’t take her. My husband hates the issue of slaves. He said: I don’t accept it that woman I sleep with has slept with many different guys before. One time I saw (in Raqqa) a slave girl &she was crying very loud because every time they would sell her to a different fighter. I told her: I cant help you. Either convert to Islam, become Muslim or try to run away. If I help her, ISIS would arrest me or kill me.
Above tweets are word-by-word translation of what ISIS wife told me. I interviewed another woman on same topic. Maybe I translate later. When u read my thread on ISIS slavery it’s shocking 2realize there’s no int mechanism to punish ISIS. No UN court. Many ISIS walk free.
Anyhow, this was a long thread. Hope it was helpful. Thank you all for your attention.
[ by Charles Cameron — graphs and networks, life and death, quality and quantity of life, personal mortality, the (implictly immortal) trinity ].
I was struck by these items, verbal and visual, in Numberphile‘s YouTube video, The Four Color Map Theorem. The speaker introduces a simple, four color map:
I’ve turned that map into a network:
The question, can this map be colored using four colors, or better? is the same question as saying, can this network be colored using four colors, or better?
There are things we can learn now about maps, by studying networks instead. .. By studying networks, we can study all the different kind of maps. Now, all maps make networks, but not all networks make valid maps.
Given that my HipBone game boards are graphs — my games as played are conceptual graphs — I’m always on the lookout for easily digested gobbits of graph theory to see if they’re applicable to my games, or to put that another way, whether they can startle me into any new insights.
At least some HipBone games could be played on maps..
One could thus view maps of the various sectarian interests in play in the Levant / Shams — theologies onto geographic areas, Alevi, Twelver, Salafi, Salafi-jihadist, Yezidi, Druze, Christian etc — as conceptual maps analogous to conceptual graphs.
And these conceptual maps are important in terms of strategy.
Different graphs could be obtained by articulating the linkages between different sects and ethnicities, eg Turkomen with Turks, Alevi and Ismaili with Twelver Shiism, and Shia with Sunni vs (eg) Christian.. and switching back and forth between map and grapoh might then prove suggestive, instructive..
Once started on Numberphile’s math-curious videos it can be hard to stop.. Here’s a surprise from the third such video I chased thids afternoon, the one on The Feigenbaum Constant:
Life and Death can be mathematized!
I think that diagram — if it can be believed — answers the vexed issue of quality and quantity, and possibly also the hard problem in consciousness.
I naturally attempted to place myself on the implicit timeline between Life and Death on that diagram. I’m reasonably far along (minor stroke, check, triple bypass, check, on dialysis, check, etc), and, shall we say, somewhat aware of my mortality.
Someone get me a slide-rule, I’d like to calculate the precise.. unh, on second thoughts, maybe not.
The only happily viable move from here — I believe — is to infinity, so let’s go.
My games, I’d suggest, make a contribution to graph theory. Specifically, to that branch of graph theory in which Margaret Masterman was a pioneer, is the area of conceptual graphs, which I meantioned above. Indeed, the (theo)logical icon Masterman explored with her Benedictine Abbess friend as described in Theism as a Scientific Hypothesis (part 1), Theoria to Theory Vol 1, 3rd Quarter, April 1967, pp 240-46:
visiting it in Boolean terms:
is none other than the graph used as an exemplar of the map-graph correlation in the Numberphile video, second illustration at the top of this post.
In the Trinitarian version of this graph, however, two kinds of “edge” or linkage are required: for the links between individual Persons (“non est”) and the links between Persons and Godhead (“est”).
And the same is true, interestingly enough, with even more types of linkage, in Oronce Fine‘s (entirely secular?) map of the elements:
And that’s enough thinking for one day, perhaps. We shall see..
[ by Charles Cameron — Ambassador Husain Haqqani and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at Chautauqua ]
From the outset, when cheers went up for Daveed’s birthplace, Ashland, Oregon, and Ambassador Haqqani’s, Karachi — and for the brilliant meeting of the minds that is Chautauqua — it was clear that we were in the presence of two gracious, witty and informed intelligences, and the seriousness of the conversation between them that followed did nothing to reduce our pleasure in the event. Daveed called it “easily the best experience I have ever had as a speaker.”
I’ll highlight some quotes from each speaker, with the occasional comment:
None of the countries except Egypt, Turkey and Iran, none of the countries of the Middle East are in borders that are historic, or that have evolved through a historic process. And that’s why you see the borders a straight lines. Straight lines are always drawn by cartographers or politicians, the real maps in history are always convoluted because of some historic factor or the other, or some river or some mountains.
And now that whole structure, the contrived structure, is coming apart.
Then most important part of it is, that this crisis of identity – who are we? are we Muslims trying to recreate the past under the principles of the caliphate .. or are we Arabs, trying to unify everybody based on one language, or are we these states that are contrived, or are we our ethnic group, or are we our tribe, or are we our sect? And this is not only in the region, it’s also overlapping into the Muslim communities in the diaspora..
If Amb. Haqqani emphasized the multiple identities in play in the Arabic, Islamic, Sunni, Shia, Sufi, and tribal worlds in his opening, Daveed’s emphasis was on the failure of the post-Westphalian concept of the nation state.
In the economic sphere there’s this thing that is often called “legacy industries” – industries that fit for another time, but are kind of out of place today. Think of Blockbuster Video, once a massive, massive corporation.. that’s a legacy industry. So when Ambassador Haqqani talks about how it’s not just in the Middle East that we have this crisis of identity, I think the broader trend is that the Westphalian state that he spoke about, the kind of state that was encoded after the Peace of Westphalia, looks to a lot of people who are in this generation of the internet where ideas flow freely, it looks like a legacy industry.
Why do you need this as a form of political organizing? And what ISIS has shown is that a violent non-state actor, even a jihadist group that is genocidal and implements as brutal a form of Islamic law as you could possibly see, it can hold territory the size of Great Britain, and it can withstand the advance of a coalition that includes the world’s most powerful countries including the United States. And what that suggests is that alternative forms of political organization can now compete with the nation state.
The Ambassador then turned to the lessons we should take from 1919’s US King–Crane Commission, reporting on the break-up of the Ottoman Empire — they concluded that it gave us
a great opportunity — not likely to return — to build .. a Near East State on the modern basis of full religious liberty, deliberately including various religious faiths, and especially guarding the rights of minorities
— down to our own times.
What we can be sure of is that the current situation is something that will not be dealt with without understanding the texture of these societies. So for example, when the United States went into Iraq without full understanding of its sectarian and tribal composition, and assumed that, all we are doing is deposing a dictator, Saddam Hussein, and then we will hold elections and now a nice new guy will get elected, and things will be all right -– that that is certainly not the recipe. So what we can say with certainty in 2015 is .. over the last century what we have learnt is: outsiders, based on their interests, determining borders is not a good idea, and should certainly not be repeated. Assuming that others are anxious to embrace your culture in totality is also an unrealistic idea.
The sentence that follows was a stunner from the Ambassador, gently delivered — a single sentence that could just as easily have been the title for this post as the remark by Daveed with which I have in fact titled it:
Let me just say that, look, he ideological battle, in the Muslim world, will have to be fought by the likes of me.
Spot on — and we are fortunate the Ambassador and his like are among us.
Daveed then turned to another topic I have freqently emphasized myself.
The power of ideas – we as Americans tend not to recognize this when it falls outside of ideas that are familiar to us. So one thing that the US has been slow to acknowledge is the role of the ideology that our friend and ally Saudi Arabia has been promulgating globally, in fomenting jihadist organizations.
And one of the reasons we have been slow to recognize that. I mean one reason is obvious, which is oil. .. But another reason has been – we tend to think of ideas that are rooted in religion – as a very post-Christian country – we tend to think of them as not being real – as ideas which express an ideology which is alien to us –as basically being a pretext, with some underlying motivation which is more familiar to us. That it must be economics, or it must be political anger. I’m not saying those are irrelevant, they’re not – but when Al-Qaida or ISIS explains themselves, taking their explanation seriously and understanding where they’re coming from – not as representatives of Islam as a whole, but as representatives of the particular ideology that they claim to stand for – we need to take that seriously. Because they certainly do.
The world is not a problem for Americans to solve, it’s a situation for them to understand.
Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.
Toward the end of the discussion, Daveed touched on some ideas of recurrent interest to Zenpundit readers..
Looking at the US Government, questions that I ask a lot are: Why are we so bad at strategy? Why are we so bad at analysis? Why do we take such a short term view and negate the long term?
He then freturned to the issue of legacy industries and nation-states:
Blockbuster is a legacy industry. And the reason why legacy industries have so much trouble competing against start-up firms, is because start-ups are smaller, it’s more easy for them to change course, to implement innovative policies, to make resolute decisions – they can out-manoeuver larger companies. And so larger companies that do well adapt themselves to this new environment where they have start-up competitors. Nation-state governments are legacy industries. Violent non-state actors are start-up compoetitors.
— and had the final, pointed word:
We’re a legacy industry ina world of start-up competitors.
Having offered you these tastes, at this point I can only encourage you to watch the whole hour and a quarter, filled to the brim with incisive and articulately-stated insights:
[ by Charles Cameron — WINEP hosts Countering Violent Extremism and Ideology discussion ]
Addressing the Washington Institute for Near East Policy earlier this month, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Jordanian Ambassador to the United States said of the IS / Daesh “caliphate”:
I think it requires a much deeper sort of analysis than what we often see coming through to us via the media outlets.
He went on to explain what he meant — emphasizing not military force but an Islamic theological response to the Daesh doctrinal claims:
We listened very carefully in Geneva to the remarks made by Walid Muallem, the foreign minister of the Syrian government, and he was dismissive of the efficacy of the airstrikes. Now this is something that I think has to be studied because we have learned from other sources that this may well be the case – or at least, if they were not supplemented by a concerted discussion within the Islamic world to confront, line by line, the thinking of the takfiri groups, that the results may not be what we hope they will be, and fall short of where we want them to be.
The letter that I have alluded to [..] was issued by a hundred and twenty-six Muslim scholars back in September as a response to the July Jumaa sermon issued by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. And what I found really quite unfortunate is that this letter which was remarkable, in the sense that it was scholarly, it was backed by Muslim scholars from all over the world, it dealt by each of the points raised in the sermon, rebuttal followed by another rebuttal to each of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s points, that this received far less in the way of media attention than the decisions to launch airstrikes and take very active military operations. Because I felt at the time and still do that this letter needs to be supported and alluded to and spoken about and referred to by politicians in the Islamic world and beyond — not least because if it isn’t shown that the Islamic world is responding, at least from a scholarly angle, then we will continue to see the phenomena we see in Europe and we saw in germany yesterday, of demonstrations basically targeting Islam as a religion, as opposed to the takfiri ideology where the denunciations should be properly be directed.
Here, then, so that we can better grasp these issues as they can be understood within Islam, is the Letter al-Hussein spoke of:
9. It is forbidden in Islam to declare people non-Muslim unless he (or she) openly declares disbelief.
10. It is forbidden in Islam to harm or mistreat—in any way—Christians or any ‘People of the Scripture’.
11. It is obligatory to consider Yazidis as People of the Scripture.
12. The re-introduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam. It was abolished by universal consensus.
13. It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert.
14. It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights.
For those of you who watch the video of the WINEP discussion, I should warn you that the close captioning is inexcusably poor. I’m betting, eg, that Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein did not say “jihadi nostra” (cute though that might be) when the context clearly suggests “Jabhat al-Nusra”.
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.