Sayid Avdalyan is determined to break a few stereotypes about the new generation of Yezidis in Armenia.
He is pursuing a Masters in International Relations at Yerevan State University and also serves as President of the Association of Yezidi Youth in Armenia.
The first stereotype on his hit list is that Yezidi boys and girls are married off by their parents at an early age
“Sure, some parents still do this but it’s a minority today, says Sayid, touching on a subject that has been in the news of late. The Armenian government has drafted a bill upping the legal age of marriage for boys and girls to 18. Currently, girls can marry when they turn 17.
Aziz Tamoyan, President of the Global Yezidi Union in Armenia, says that according to tradition Yezidi girls are regarded as spinsters at 18.
Sayid says that a major reason for early marriages is demographic. “We are small in numbers. In Armenia, there are around 40,000 Yezidis and worldwide just 2-2.5 million. This is why some families still push for early marriages. But most families now oppose the tradition.”
He says that most young Yezidis today want to get a higher education and a job afterwards rather than getting married right out of high school.
“Today, many young Yezidis want to establish themselves in society before thinking about getting married. Times have changed and we have to keep up with them without forgetting our past,” says Sayid.
The Yezidi Youth Association president says he was offended to read certain chauvinistic comments by Armenian young people in various internet chat sites that the Yezidis should leave the country.
“My name is Sayid Avdalyan and I’m a full citizen of Armenia with all the rights and responsibilities of everyone else; Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks. Thus, I consider Armenia my home. Yes, northern Iraq is considered as the native homeland of the Yezidi nation and it will always have a place in my heart. But I consider my homeland to be Armenia, where I was born and raised. I am ready to do all to serve my homeland and all its citizens.”
Sayid notes that Yezidis have always struggled alongside Armenians and gives the example of Jahangir Agha, a national hero of the Yezidis in early 20th century.
Jahangir Agha teamed up with Andranik Pasha in the battles to defend the Armenian communities of Van and Alashkert in 1915 against Ottoman aggression.
In 1918, Jahangir Agha participated in Bash-Aparan battle with his Yezidi battalion of three hundred horsemen against Turkish Army invaded Armenia. He also joined Armenians during the anti-Bolshevik revolt of February 18, 1921 and participated in battles for Yerevan.
“In the Karabakh War both my 33 year-old uncle and 25 year-old brother died in the defense of their homeland. Many other Yezidis fought and died on the battlefield. My other uncle donated 11 tons of meat for the soldiers. No one has the right to foment divisions in the long history of friendship between Armenians and Yezidis. Armenia is my homeland as well. It doesn’t matter what your ethnic identity may be,” Sayid said.
When it was time to part ways, the young man turned and calmly stated, “Yes, I’m a Yezidi but I love Armenia much more than many others.”
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