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Who are Iraq's Kakai?

In an interview with Al-Monitor, Ako Shawais, the first political representative of Iraq’s Kakai minority, discusses why this sect is so secretive and its careful struggle for political and religious rights.
A displaced family from the minority Yazidi sect, fleeing the violence, walks towards the entrance of Mosul, in northern Iraq August 21, 2014. Iraqi and Kurdish forces recaptured Iraq's biggest dam from Islamist militants with the help of U.S. air strikes to secure a vital strategic objective in fighting that threatens to break up the country, Kurdish and U.S. officials said on Monday.  REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal (IRAQ - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS MILITARY CONFLICT) - RTR437XY

HALABJA, Iraq — The Kakais are one of the religious minorities scattered throughout northern Iraq in the provinces of Sulaimaniyah and Halabja, in the Ninevah Plains of Ninevah province and in villages to the southeast of Kirkuk. Historians and researchers disagree on their classification, as mystery and secrecy shroud this sect. Kakais have kept their beliefs hidden, and this secrecy has prevented them from forming their own independent political parties and gaining representation in the parliaments of the central Iraqi government and Kurdistan Region.

Kakais ethnically associate themselves with Kurds, but a group of them proclaims that the Kakais are a distinct community and demands political representation. The population has won a quota-mandated seat in the Halabja provincial council, occupied today by Ako Shawais.

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