Iraq: Yazidis Bury American Volunteer Teacher in Holy Shrine

Yazidis have honored an American volunteer teacher’s dying wishes to be buried in the Yazidi holy site of Sheikh Sharafaddin Shrine located in northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region, reports Rudaw.

Leland Stanford Scott, 67, volunteered to teach English and helped provide medical treatment at a clinic inside a Yazidi refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Rudaw learned that the American teacher died of a stroke on July 2 and requested to be buried at the Yazidi holy site.

The Kurdish news outlet reports:

During a brief period of consciousness after the stroke, he contacted his family by email and made arrangements to be buried in the Yezidi Sharafaddin Shrine near Mount [Sinjar in northern Iraq’s Nineveh province]…

At the end of his journey, covered with Kurdish and US flags, Scott is now buried in his beloved adopted land, Kurdistan.

The Sharafaddin Tomb in Kurdistan is reportedly considered the second most important shrine for Yezidis after the shrine of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir at Lalish. Yazidis have buried some of their martyrs killed by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) at the Sharafaddin holy site.

Rudaw notes:

67-year old Leland Stanford Scott, known as Mr. Lee to his students, came to the Kurdistan Region four months ago as a volunteer teacher, teaching English and volunteering in the clinic at Bajid Kandall 2 refugee camp, in the Kurdistan Region’s province of Duhok, where many Yezidi refugees are staying.

Scott is survived by five sons and two daughters in the United States. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad reportedly granted permission for the American to be buried in the Kurdistan region.

Rudaw reports:

At his funeral, many people, including his students, came to pay their respects, carrying signs expressing gratitude to their deceased teacher.

‘I am very proud, because Mr. Lee helped me to learn English,’ said students thanking their teacher.

‘Mr. Lee was a great teacher, great friend and great father for us,’ read one student’s sign.

Scott taught as many as 150 student for 6 hours every day, according to Rudaw.

“He contacted us in February and said that he had heard about our organization and he wanted to come and work with us voluntarily,” a representative for the Joint Help for Kurdistan NGO told Rudaw.

The Yazidis, who are ethnically Kurdish, have been deemed “devil worshippers” and not “people of the book” by many Muslims, including jihadists like ISIS who use the labels to justify genocide against the Yazidis.

Their religion is considered to be a blend between Zoroastrianism and Islam, particularly mystical Sufi Islam

National Geographic explains:

Most Yazidis are Kurdish speakers, and while the majority consider themselves ethnically Kurdish, Yazidis are religiously distinct from Iraq’s predominantly Sunni Kurdish population. Yazidism is an ancient faith, with a rich oral tradition that integrates some Islamic beliefs with elements of Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion, and Mithraism, a mystery religion originating in the Eastern Mediterranean.

This combining of various belief systems, known religiously as syncretism, was what part of what branded them as heretics among Muslims


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