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article imageThe Yazidi: Keepers of an ancient faith

By Karen Graham     Aug 8, 2014 in World
If not for the horrors being inflicted by Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq against everyone not accepting their idea of what Islam is supposed to be, the majority of us probably would never have heard of the Yazidi religious sect.
Today Iraq is a Muslim-majority country with Islam accounting for 97 percent of the population. But even Islam has a divide, with Shia accounting for about 65 percent, and Sunnis accounting for about 35 percent of the Muslim majority. This leaves just 3.0 percent of the population considered non-Muslims.
While Islam was given to the people in the 6th century A.D., there were people living in this region of the world who had religious beliefs that go far back into history. Although they are a very small minority, Christians have lived in Iraq for the last 2,000 years. Today, there are about 1.4 million adherents of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Assyrian Church of the East and Syriac Orthodox Church.
There are a number of religious sects such as Yazidi  Zoroastrian  Yarsan  Alevi  Christian  Jewish ...
There are a number of religious sects such as Yazidi, Zoroastrian, Yarsan, Alevi, Christian, Jewish, Sarayi, Bajwan, Shabak, and Sarli living in Kurdistan, northern Iraq.
ACoE photographer Jim Gordon
Smaller in number are the ethnoreligious minority populations of Mandaeans, Shabaks, Yarsan and Yezidis. These ethnic-religious groups have some aspects of Islam, Christianity and even the Jewish faith in their beliefs, but their beliefs have remained within their own ethnic population with very little change. Yet, for centuries, they have called Iraq their homeland, living side-by-side with their Muslim neighbors, until now.
The Yazidis of Iraq
The Yazidi, Christians and Turkmans have all been targeted by ISIS since this jihadist group stormed through Mosul and Tikrit in mid-June. When over 60,000 Iraqi military troops fled the region, they left the Kurdish Peshmerga to defend these religious minorities. Now, the world is seeing a humanitarian crisis, and the attempted genocide, of these minority religions because they are not, and do not want to convert to an extremist Islamic faith.
Yazidi men.
Yazidi men.
Bestoun04
The Yazidi is an ancient Arab-Kurdish community whose religion is linked to Zoroastrianism and other ancient Mesopotamian religions. Zoroastrianism is an ancient Iranian religion and a religious philosophy. Followers believe in a supreme being, God. They also believe that God entrusted the world to the care of a heptad, or group of seven angels, or "heft sirr" (the Seven Mysteries). Yazidi religious beliefs seem to contain a few elements of other faiths, from Christianity to Islam.
For Yazidis the most important of the seven angels is "Melek Taus" the Peacock Angel. There is a Yazidi story detailing Melek Taus' rise to favor with God, very similar to the story of the jinn Iblis in Islam. In the Yazidi story, Melek Taus refuses to submit to God by bowing to Adam. In Islam, blis' refusal to submit to God caused him to fall out of favor and to later become Satan. This story gives credence to the Muslim belief that Yazidis are devil-worshippers.
But according to the Yazidi accounts of creation, God made Melek Taus first, from his own illumination, and ordered him not to bow before other beings. Only then did He make the other six angels. God then ordered the six to gather dust from the earth and build the body of Adam. Then God instructed all the angels to bow before Adam, and all of them did, except Melek Taus. God then praised him and made him the leader of all the other angels and his deputy on the earth. Because the Yazidi story has a different ending, Muslims believe the Yazidis worship Satan because Melek Taus, Shaytan, is the same name used for the devil in the Koran and in the Bible.
The only thing we should be concerned about is the safety and well-being of these people, the Yazidis, Kurds, Shia and other minority Christian groups. Not everyone is going to like everyone's religious beliefs, and this shouldn't matter, not when thousands have been driven from their homes, and are under threat of being killed or starving to death. That is what make us human, and it's called humanity.
More about yazidi, Irag, ancient faith, Zoroastrianism, Iran
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