The Beautiful Yezidis
Last updated May 2015
Yezidis are an ancient indigenous Mesopotamian people with their own unique religion and culture. The Yezidi and Assyrian calendars are in the year 6765. Yezidi new year is called Charshma Sor Nisani or Red Wednesday of Nisan. The most recent Charshma Sor Nisani fell on April 15 2015.
Yezidis are not ethnic Kurds, but some Kurds descend from Yezidis. The Yezidis of Northern Iraq live in the Kurdish region. Therefore, both Kurds and Yezidis sometimes refer to Yezidis as Kurdish Yezidis. This is similar to Yezidis living in Canada and being called Canadian Yezidis, or Yezidis living in Sweden being called Swedish Yezidis.
Yezidis are monotheists. They believe in one God and seven archangels, including Tawse Melek, the peacock angel. Yezidis believe in reincarnation and their people have a spiritual caste system. Yezidis believe in the Garden of the Garden. They believe that they are descendants of Adam, but not Eve. Yezidis have a flood story. They believe in Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. Yezidis have a water immersion ritual and they also circumcise their males.
There are a number of books written by and about Yezidis, but there are not many in English. Yezidis do not have a written scripture and that is one of the many reasons that Yezidis have been, and are being, persecuted as infidels or devil worshippers. Misunderstandings about the Yezidi religion led Turkish, Kurdish and Arab Pashas of the Ottoman Empire to issue “farmans”—decrees—for the extermination of Yezidis in a given village, city or region. Yezidis were also targeted in Saddam Hussein’s Anfal campaign, and in 2007, car bombs killed over 700 Yezidis and left 1000 wounded. Presently, the terrorists who called themselves Daesh/IS/ISIS/ISIL are committing genocide against Yezidis by the means described in The Present Yezidi Genocide section below.
Seventy-three farmans (decrees) over 700 years caused the loss of nearly twenty-three million Yezidis through murder and forced conversion. See http://www.yezidihumanrights.org/yezidi-genocide.php for an overview of 72 genocidal attacks on Yezidis from 637 to 1917. Also see https://www.yezidis-assyrians.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Yezidi-Timeline-1805-to-2014.pdf for a description of genocidal attacks on Yezidis from 1805 to 2014.)
There is no conclusive census of Yezidis worldwide. We have heard reports that there are somewhere between hundreds of thousands and a little of one million Yezidis in the world today. There are Yezidi communities in the United States, Canada, Sweden, Germany, France and Armenia. There are a number of Yezidi college students in India. We believe that there may also be Yezidis living in Russia and the nation of Georgia.
However, the largest preponderance of Yezidis are in refugee camps and captivity. Those are the Yezidis described in the Targeted for Genocide article below.
Yezidis International is based in the United States and maintains a website at http://www.yezidisinternational.org. Click or hover over “Yezidi People” in the menu and also hover over “Culture” in the submenu.
Children of Yezidis is a website at http://www.childrenofezidi.org. This website is sponsored by Yezidis International and is appropriate for school age children to learn about the beautiful Yezidi people. There are even recipes!
Yezidi Human Rights Organization-International is based in Canada and maintains a website at http://www.yezidihumanrights.org.
The Truth About Yezidis is a website at http://www.yeziditruth.org. This website is sponsored by Yezidi Human Rights Organization-International for adults to learn about the Yezidi people.
Yazda is based in the United States and Iraq and has a website at http://www.yazda.org. Click or hover on the “Yazidi Case” for Yazda’s education material.
The Present Yezidi Genocide
The present atrocities against the Yezidis of Northern Iraq began during the summer of 2014 when Daesh/ISIS gave Yezidis an ultimatum: convert or be killed. After the ultimatum, Yezidis were subjected to forced migration, being forced from their homes and communities. Yezidis in Iraq have nowhere to go that is safe from persecution, and according to Zainab Bangura—United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict—women and girls are at risk of sexual violence and under assault at every point of their lives.
Over 400,00 Yezidis are living in refugee camps and abandoned construction sites in Northern Iraq. Approximate 23,000 to 30,000 Yezidis are in refugee camps in Turkey and approximately 7,000 to 8,000 are in refugee camps in Syria. Yezidis and others in the refugee camps of Northern Iraq are underserved with basic needs for a variety of reasons, including the tremendous number of refugees in Iraq and the region and the region; tension and bureaucracy between the Iraqi government in Bagdad and the Kurdistan Iraq government in Erbil; and other factors beyond our knowledge.
In August 2015, thousands of Yezidis were chased up Mount Sinjar by Daesh. Stories of atrocities included terrorists forcing women with infants and toddlers to run while carrying their children. These women had already been separated from their husbands, many of whom had been murdered before their eyes. Many of the women were forced to run at such a fast pace that they could not run and carry both children. Fearing that they would all be murdered, the mother would put down a toddler and the terrorists would immediately murder the child.
The International Association for Human Values—an NGO run by the disciples of Hindu Guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar—and other relief organizations provided food, water, blankets and hygiene supplies to Yezidis on Mount Sinjar and managed to airlift hundreds of Yezidis from the mountain, transporting them to refugee camps. Dehydration was rampant and many children died of dehydration. The Yezidis on the mountain lacked winter clothing and shelter against the frigid Iraqi weather. In mid to late December 2014, under cover of U.S. bombings, Kurdish forces opened roads and the Yezidis remaining on the mountain were rescued.
Tension remains between Yezidis and the government and military forces in the area of their previous homes and lives because the militaries forces were not able to repel the incoming terrorists and protect the Yezidi people. The same tension exists between Assyrians and the government and military forces in the area of their previous homes and lives because the forces were also not able to repel the incoming terrorists and protect the Assyrian people. This is a problem that must be solved in order for life to return to normal in Northern Iraq: Yezidis and Assyrians are calling for an international protection force under the United Nations in order to protect them from violence and atrocities that arise both within and beyond the borders of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Between August and December 2014, over 10,000 Yezidis were murdered and a number of mass graves have been uncovered. Thousands of Yezidi families were captured and held hostage beginning in August 2014. According to Dr. Mirza Dinnayi, 3500 Yezidis remained in captivity as of 27 April 2015. Young daughters had been removed from these families previously, but remaining family members were allowed to stay together in captivity. According to Dr. Dinnayi, in April 2015, as punishment for a number of Yezidis escaping or attempting to escape, there was a separating of families, with little girls taken away from their mothers, and men and boys separated from the women and girls. There are conflicting reports as to exactly what happened next. These include reports of small and large numbers of Yezidis being massacred. If the reports are accurate, over 900 Yezidis were brutally slaughtered. According to one media article, hundreds of Yezidi dead bodies were thrown down a well. See our media release at https://www.yezidis-assyrians.org/articles-and-videos/press-releases/massacre-ransom/ for other details.
There are also reports that approximately 2000 kidnapped Yezidi boys were separated from their parents, forced to convert and forced to train and fight as child soldiers. There was a recent report that 3 Yezidi child soldiers were killed during fighting. See the article at http://ezidipress.com/en/child-soldiers-of-the-islamic-state-3-ezidi-children-killed-in-clashes/.
In addition to the genocidal atrocities described above, over 7,000 Yezidi women and girls were kidnapped and forced into sex slavery. There have also been reports that some Yezidi women and girls were forced to convert and marry or become concubines. There are reports of brothels where sex slaves are forced to have sex repeatedly and unrelentingly. In addition, there are reports of gang rape, including both rape and gang rape in public. Zainab Bangura—United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict—was interviewed for the article at http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2015/05/08/un-official-isis-forces-girls-to-undergo-virginity-surgeries-marry-them-off-20-times/. The following is an excerpt:
“Women and girls are at risk and under assault at every point of their lives,” she explained, adding that the threats lurk behind them “every step of the way… in the midst of active conflict, in areas under control of armed actors, at check-points and border crossings, and in detention facilities.”
She also told journalists about the sex markets the militants throw to sell women to different men.
“Girls are literally being stripped naked and examined in slave bazaars,” she claimed and said they were “categorized and shipped naked off to Dohuk or Mosul or other locations to be distributed among ISIL leadership and fighters.”
Bangura said the militants promised young girls to ISIS leaders. They also force the girls into prostitution, which is one way the group raises funds. One woman was married off 20 times, but each time the militants forced her to undergo surgery to repair her virginity….
“ISIL have institutionalized sexual violence and the brutalization of women as a central aspect of their ideology and operations, using it as a tactic of terrorism to advance their key strategic objectives,” continued Bangura.
Over the months, many hundreds of Yezidis have been released from captivity, including approximately 1200 sex slaves. Among them was a girl of nine years old who was pregnant and reported being raped by over 10 different men. There have been reports of girls younger than nine also being raped. We were informed in late April 2015 that there remained approximately 6,400 Yezidi women and girls in captivity as sex slaves or subjected to forced marriage. We are very concerned that the number of enslaved and sexually tortured women is now higher due to the separation of women from the families among the 3500 Yezidis described by Dr. Dinnayi in his 27 April 2015 letter described above.
We tremble for the little girls among these families who were separated from both parents and the rest of their family.
In addition to these genocidal atrocities, there are reports of Yezidis being taken into custody by Kurdish authorities and beaten and/or tortured and/or murdered. Many Yezidis remain in Kurdish custody because they held a demonstration in a refugee camp in solidarity with Yezidis demonstrating in Europe against the genocide of their people. We believe that there are also Yezidis in Kurdish custody for other reasons. There have been reports of Yezidis beaten, tortured and murdered by Kurds, including beheadings. There are also reports of Kurdish men engaging in sex at terrorist run brothels.
There are ongoing reports of terrorist forces destroying Yezidi homes, schools and shrines beginning in August and continuing until now. Not only is it not safe for Yezidis to return to their homes; in many cases, there are no homes or communities to which to return.