Yezidis are Zooastrian Kurds, who live in Armenia and consider themselves a nation. During the Armenian genocide, 200,000 Yezidis were also killed and deported from Turkey. The article here tells about a poor Yezidi family of Armenia….. Very sad story.

Yezidi Family Condemned to Starvation

Yezidi Family Condemned to Starvation

[September 19, 2005]

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On a cold winter's day four years ago, the Khatoyans went to the town cemetery in Stepanavan to bury their fourth child, who had died, as had the previous three, of starvation…

The Yezidis visit the graves of their relatives every week; it is a mandatory part of their tradition. Khato usually does so early on Monday mornings. Of all of his deceased children, only the youngest is buried in Stepanavan. If there is ever a headstone over this grave, it will say "Anoush Khato Khatoyan, born and died in the same year".

The Khatoyan family lives on the outskirts of the city. After long years of begging for shelter in garages and guard posts, Khato settled down with his wife and children in his father's old, rundown trailer. His parents moved to a house left barely standing by the earthquake.

Khato has five children. He has tried to improve the trailer and repair some holes and cracks, but largely in vain. There is a continuous draft, and on rainy days, the room fills with water. But his main problem today is not to repair the trailer, but to save his remaining five children from starvation and disease. For Khato and his wife, every day starts with the problem of earning a piece of bread.

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"God keeps us in the summer. There are a lot of useful things in the forest – wild berries, raspberries, wood, acorns, spelt, mushrooms, rose-hips, and so on—all you need, but not many people come all the way here to get it," said Khato. His wife Etheri added, "It's tough to go there, I get very tired. It's especially difficult for a woman to climb those hills and get to the forest, but it is necessary. Our children have never eaten to their hearts' content. Every day our neighbors help us; the children see someone with bread and run in front of them, and they feel sorry and give them a piece of it. Sometimes they call one of the kids and give them some jam, potatoes, and so on, and that's how we scrape by."

Khato's two eldest daughters, thirteen and twelve, are illiterate. They do not go to school, and have never gone regularly, because poverty has had the final say on this issue as well. "I went to a boarding school, and they laughed at me there because I didn't have shoes. I came home crying and told my parents that I would never go back," said 13-year old Milena.

"My children have no shoes. They have no food. If you take them anywhere, they faint because they're starving,” Etheri said. “How can I leave them alone? I'm a mother, after all. Let them be by my side even if they go hungry."

Hunger and poverty have been haunted this family for years. Others, including the government, have turned there backs. Even the government's social policies have not reached this home. Etheri is a Georgian citizen, but she lost her passport when she moved to Armenia. Without passports, the parents can't get birth certificates for their children, who are thus ineligible for welfare benefits.

"I have nobody besides my five children and my husband, nobody. That's why I can't go to Georgia to bring those documents. And they want so much money there; I can't even afford a piece of bread, how can I go there?" Etheri asked.

The family's harsh fate has attracted little attention on the part of city authorities or the many organizations that implement all sorts of international programs here. Two years ago, the Armenian Apostolic Church provided them with food and clothing for a few months. The provincial authorities of Lori requested information about the family but did nothing. One of the five children has a heart defect and poor eyesight, and the youngest has been diagnosed with leukemia.

The Khatoyans have pleaded for help from various officials, starting from the local authorities all the way to the Minister for Labor and Social Affairs. But all their efforts have been in vain. Nothing distinguishes this family except for extreme poverty; little has been done to help.

Hermine Mkhitaryan

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