Yezidis are victims of myths and misconceptions
The attacks of the extremist militants of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) targeted several minorities in the Middle East led by the Kurds, Yezidis and the Turkmens which once again created controversies and debates on what the Yezidis stand for and what the facts and myths are about them.
ISIS targeted the Kurdish speaking Yezidis of Iraq as its militants captured nearly forty percent of the country starting with Mosul. ISIS committed atrocities in all parts of Iraq and Syria but the worst targeted groups were the Yezidis who some Muslims and Christians regard as the “devil worshippers.” Those Yezidis who managed to survive the ISIS massacres found their ways to the Iraqi Kurdish areas controlled by Masoud Barzani’s administration while most sought refuge in Turkey and were placed in refugee camps finance by the Turkish government.
In recent weeks the Kurdish Peshmerga forces of Barzani managed to liberate some sectors of Sinjar province where a majority of the Yezidis live and thus help to ease pressures on these unfortunate people.
So what are the facts and myths about the Yezidis? Are they really worshippers of the devil, what is their religion and what is their significance in Middle East culture?
One myth about them is that the Yezidis are connected to Omayyad Sultan Yezid who ordered the killing of Hussein in Karbala who was the beloved grandchild of Prophet Muhammad. That is why the Yezidis have attracted the enmity of several Muslim groups and hence the very harsh treatment they suffered in the hands of the ISIS extremists.
The Yezidis categorically deny any connections with Sultan Yezid and the Omayyads. The Yezidis say they are not the followers of Omayyad Sultan Yezid bin Muawaiya and that they are actually the followers of Yezid bin Ezidian who has nothing to do with the Omayyad sultan. The word Ezidian comes from the world “Ezdai” which means the people who believe in God but without the prophets.
The religion is believed to have been founded by Shaahid ibn Djaraah, the true son of Adam. Another legendary figure for the figure for the Yezidis is Sufi Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir who died in 1162. The Yezidis believe that he was sent to the Yezidis by the “Peacock Angel” to guide and educate them. His grave is near Mosul and is regarded as the most import ant site pf pilgrimage for the Yezidi religion.
The Yezidis are said to have a distinctive religious system, the origins of which still remain unclear. Religious scholars say the Yezidism resembles Manichaean, Zoroastrian, Mandaean Gnostic, Jewish, Christian (especially Nestorian), and Muslim (especially Sufi) beliefs but they all agree that the Yezidi religion is not an offshoot of any of them.
Only those born into the Yezidi community can belong to the religion; the Yezidis do not appear to accept converts. They do not accept marriages to members of other religions.
They do not resemble the satanic cults that prevail around the world but they do have a connection to the devil. According to religious experts Yezidi theology recognizes a fundamental distinction between two principles: the good principle is represented by God, who created the world but does not participate in its daily affairs. It is to the evil principle that takes an active role in worldly matters that prayers and offerings are made. This second deity, associated with the Devil, is Malak-Tâ'ûs or Malek-Tauz, the "Peacock Angel"--a fallen angel punished by God for rebellion against divine authority. One of the core elements of Yezidi religious practice is the propitiation of the evil principle through worship and offerings in order to insure good fortune and happiness in the world. (According to some Yezidi informants, God is so good that he has no need of worship, whereas the Peacock Angel is so evil as to require constant appeasement [Badger 1852, 126].)
According to a report in the Anatolian News Agency the Yazidis originated in Syria and the vicinity of Basra and then migrated to the Sinjar area of Iraqi Kurdistan and adopted the Kurdish language. Some Kurdish scholars claim Yezidism was the national religion of Kurds in the Middle Ages.
Yazidis believe they were the first people to be created in the Garden of Eden, which they claim is a large area centered around what is now known as Lalish in Iraq. A vestige of the Yezidis' Garden of Eden era is reputed to be Gobekli Tepe, a recently discovered archeological excavation in southern Turkey that has been dated to approximately 12,000 BCE. Then, during and after a great flood around 4000 BCE, the Yezidis dispersed to many countries in Africa and Asia, including India, Afghanistan, Armenia, and Morocco. Returning from their adoptive countries around 2000 BCE the Yezidis played an important role in the development of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Jewish civilizations of the Middle East.
The Muslims do not regard the Yezidis as the “People of the Book” and some even call them a heretic Muslim sect.
Some Yezidis were driven to the Transcaucasia region in the nineteenth and early twentieth century after several waves of religious persecution.
They established close relations with the Armenians and about 50 thousand live around the Yerevan region. There are also Yezidis living in Georgia.
In Turkish, Arabic and English they are referred to as “Yezidis” while the Kurds call them Ezidi. In Kurdish “ezidi” means the personality that Allah created.
There are about 800 thousand Yezidis throughout the world. 500 thousand are in Iraq while the rest are scattered in Armenia as well as in Europe especially in Germany, Belgium and France. In Turkey they live around the southeastern provinces of Batman, Diyarbakır, Gaziantep, Mardin and Şanlıurfa.
Yezidis are called Kurds, they are called worshippers of the Devil and now they are the targets of extremist militants of ISIS. They are clearly the victims of myths and misconceptions that are still dominant in the world general and the Muslim world in particular. The fact that the international community has rallied for their help and Turkey has offered shelter for them shows that despite all the negative images created against them there is still hope for the Yezidis for a better future. - Nurten Çevik COMD 331