The Vanishing Yezidi of Iraq


Jarett Kobek in NYU Magazine (via Hussein Ibish):

Like Iraq’s other minorities, the Yezidi are exactly the kind of people for whom the ideal of Operation Iraqi Freedom held the most promise—a group long persecuted for their religious beliefs welcomed into the fabric of a newly “pluralistic” society. Reality has worked out differently. In the seven years since the American-led invasion, the Yezidi have suffered relentless violence and are presently caught in the middle of territorial disputes between the central Iraqi government and Northern Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government. The Kurdish director of Yezidi affairs told The New York Times in 2007 that of a population estimated between 200,000 and 500,000, more than 70,000 have fled into exile. “It’s very grim,” said Samer Muscati, co-author of the Human Rights Watch’sOn Vulnerable Ground, a recent report on minority communities in Iraq. “If the pressures they face continue and the Yezidi keep fleeing the country, the future looks bleak.”

My father is a Turkish Muslim turned New Ager. My mother is Irish-American and raised me Catholic. This upbringing left me fascinated by those who elude easy categorization. So when I read about the Yezidi—whose practices resemble a spiritual pastiche with traces of Sufism, the mystical strain of Islam, as well as the ancient Persian religion Zoroastrianism and Kurdish folk belief—I was rapt. Yezidism holds that God created seven angels, chief among them Melek Ta’us, the Peacock Angel, who in turn created the world and is the source of all beauty and good.

But for almost as long as there have been Yezidi, their culture has been misinterpreted by neighboring Muslims, who identify Melek Ta’us as Iblis, the Islamic Satan. Muslims believe the Yezidi worship the devil.

More here.