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Yazidis, the persecuted religious minority in the Middle East that few even know about

As this article notes, the Yazidi community in Iraq has around half a million members, but this community has been decimated by persecution in recent years. The Yazidis were particular targets of ISIS, and still face dangers in practicing their faith openly. They deserve the support of all people of faith.

“Yazidis, the persecuted minority in the Middle East that few people care about,” by Leandro Fleischer, Voz, June 11, 2024:

The Yazidis are followers of a Middle Eastern religion, which they say is even older than Judaism, with roots dating back centuries before the Christian era in ancient Persia and resembles the Zoroastrian faith. The Yazidis have adopted various traditions from Sufi Islam and other Mesopotamian cultures.

Like Muslims, Yazidis pray five times a day. Like the Zoroastrians, they maintain the purity of the four elements (earth, water, air and fire). The members of this community believe that God manifests himself in the human body and also in reincarnation. 

Throughout history, the Yazidis have been viewed by their Muslim neighbors as “devil worshipers,” so they have had to live constantly on the run. In recent years they have settled between the autonomous region of Kurdistan and the Sinjar and Shekhan mountains, both in the Iraqi province of Nineveh.

The Yazidi community in Iraq has around half a million members, representing less than 2% of the Iraqi population, made up of more than 40,000,000 inhabitants. Other large communities live in exile in Syria, Armenia and Germany.

Journalist Ethel Bonet points out in her book Genocide of the Yazidi People that the sanctuary of Adi ibn Musafir al-Hakkari, also known as the Mecca of the Yazidis, from the 12th century, has served as a refuge for all the members of this community who have been victims of harassment and persecution by the Ottomans, the late former president Saddam Hussein, Sunni fundamentalist groups and terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda and more recently the Islamic State. This temple was founded by Adi ibn Musafir, whom Yazidism considers an avatar of Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel, who is the central deity in their faith….

According to some studies, the number of Yazidis who were killed over the centuries could be as many as 20 million. Despite the persecutions suffered since the Ottoman Empire and so many centuries of martyrdom, they have never lost their faith or their sense of identity….

The most recent massacre the Yazidis experienced occurred in August 2014.  According to the Nadia’s Initiative’s website, well-known Yazidi survivor and activist Nadia Murad claims the world witnessed a genocide. Within two weeks, the Iraqi region of Sinjar was invaded by the terrorist organization Islamic State (ISIS), which undertook a campaign to carry out ethnic cleansing against the Yazidis. 

The foundation adds that approximately 400,000 Yazidis fled to the neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan region and tens of thousands took refuge on Mount Sinjar, where they were on the brink of famine. The rest, unable to flee, were killed or kidnapped and subjected to horrible acts of violence: slavery, forced labor, torture and rape. It is estimated that ISIS killed 5,000 Yazidi men and women…. 

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