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Yazidis Sect of Iraq

Home > Culture > Yazidis Sect

A small minority group located in northwestern Iraq, mostly in the area of Sinjar, is the Yazidi sect. The Yazidis are found in Sinjar and other areas of the Nineveh Province. The Yazidi sect is considered by some a Kurdish ethno-religious community. The Yazidi community is indigenous to Iraq.

Yazidis or Yezidis. There are a couple of ways of spelling the name.

Population. The secretive religious sect numbers a little over 1/2 million and has been persecuted for centuries. Other Yazidis live in Syria, Georgia, Turkey, Russia and Armenia. A number of Yazidis have emigrated to Europe as well; mostly in Germany. The vast majority of the Yazidis live in the Sinjar, Iraq area.

Location of Sinjar, Iraq

Language. The Yazidis who live in Iraq speak Kurmanji - a northern Kurdish dialect; although some speak Arabic.

Ethnicity. The Yazidis consider themselves a separate ethnic group - not Arabic or Kurdish. The Kurds consider the Yazidis as Kurds. Some Yazidis say they are Yazidis first and Kurds second. This ethno-religious group predates Islam (7th century). Other sources cite this group as ethnic Kurds but outside of the mainstream Kurdish community and culture.

Religion. The Yazidi sect combines aspects of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Manichaean, and ancient Zoroastrianism to form their own religion. Of course, the Muslims look dimly upon this religion - considered by many to be devil worshippers and apostates. Their religious practice dates back to the Sumerian period in Mesopotamia, circa 2000 BCE. Outsiders are not allowed to convert to the Yazidi religion. The Yezidis claim to have - with 6,000 years - the oldest religion in the world; although one that blends a number of recent religions into it's own - probably as a survival mechanism with one occupier after another introducing new religions to the Yezidis community over time.

Culture. Although culturally close to the Kurds the Yazidis feel they have their own culture.

Worries on Assimilation. The Yazidis are fearful of being assimilated into Kurdish or Arabic culture and losing their own cultural identity and ethnicity.

Persecution of the Yazidi

Ottoman Era. The Ottoman's persecuted the Yazidi during their empire days.

Saddam Hussein Era. Under the Saddam regime the Yazidi sect suffered from neglect and repression. They did not receive the benefit of community services such as electricity, water, education, and healthcare and as a community they slipped into poverty.

Iraq 2003-2011. The Sunni insurgents fighting the Iraq and U.S. military in Iraq were also at odds with the Yazidis as well. The Islamic Army in Iraq - one of many Sunni insurgent groups - targeted the Yazidis. On one occasion a number of truck bombs killed 500 and wounded 1,500 in one day. 2.

Iraq 2014. With the arise of the Islamic State in Iraq in 2014 the Yazidi community has much to fear. The Iraq Jihadists have vowed to eliminate the Yazidi as an ethnic group. 1. The Yazidi have to rely on the Peshmerga for protection.

Websites with Information about the Yazidi Sect

Wikipedia - Yazidi

Background: The Yezidi by The Guardian

Yazidi. Encyclopedia Britannica

Yazidism - A Heterodox Kurdish Religion. By Christine Allison, The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS).

Videos about the Yazidi Sect

Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: The disappearing religions of the Middle East, New America interview of Gerard Russel, author and former diplomat. Video is on YouTube and is 1 hour and 21 minutes long.

News Articles and Reports on the Yazidi Sect

May 1, 2021. "Serenity for Sinjar: Resiliency and Reconciliation", E-International Relations. Ian Adcock presents an argument for reconciliation between the Yazidi population and their Iraqi and Kurdish neighbors.

August 2016. A Call for Accountability and Protection: Yezidi Survivors of Atrocities Committed by ISIL, United Nations report.

June 20, 2016. "The Wars after the War for Sinjar: How Washington Can Avert a New Civil War", by Christine McCaffray Van Den Toorn, War on the Rocks. The Yazidis in the Sinjar region may be pulled in different directions by warring factions.

February 9, 2015. "Escaped Yazidi Women Recount Ordeal of Islamic State Captivity". Voice of America (VOA). The women undergo repeated beatings and rape and are sold as slaves.

October 21, 2014. "Daily Life in the Shadow of ISIS". The Atantic. (link). How Iraq's displaced people are coping with war and want.

October 16, 2014. "ISIS Justifies Its Yazidi Slaves". Middle East Forum.

August 13, 2014. "The Yazidis, a People Who Fled". The Atlantic. (link).

August 8, 2014. A Very Brief History of the Yazidi and What They're Up Against in Iraq", TheWire.com at this link.

August 19, 2007. "The Devil worshippers of Iraq". The Telegraph. (link).

June 3, 2005. Lost in Translation, Michael Yon Online Magazine. Yon's story of a visit to a Yezidi village in northern Iraq.



1. For more on the threat to the Yazidis Sect from the Islamic State see "Iraq's jihadis have vowed to wipe out the Yazidis. Who are they?", The Christian Science Monitor, August 5, 2014 at this link.

2. For more on the truck bombing of Yazidis see 500 Killed in a Four Truck Bomb Attack in Sinjar, Terrorism Watch & Warning, at this link.


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