Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Who are the Yezidis?

The Yezidi are an indigenous religious minority that lives in the transnational Kurdish region in Syria, Southeastern Turkey, Armenia, in Northern Iraq, and in diaspora communities, particularly in Germany. Yezidi beliefs are a syncretic blend of Islamic ‘Adawiyya Sufism, pre-Islamic Kurdish religion, and Zoroastrianism, strongly influenced by the 12th century Sufi mystic Sheikh ‘Adi ibn Musafir (d. 1160/1162). Sheikh ‘Adi’s burial site in Lalish, Iraq, is Yazidism’s primary pilgrimage site. The Yezidis are a closely-knit community that stresses endogamy and a prohibition against conversion.

Yezidis have been persecuted by Arab and Kurdish Sunni Muslims for their perceived heretical belief system. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Yezidis had political prominence in the Kurdish region but it weakened with the rise of the Ottoman and Persian Safavid Empires in the 16th and 17th centuries, during which period many Yezidis converted to Sunni Islam. Yezidis fled Ottoman persecution to Armenia in the early 19th century. In 1849, the Yezidi received protection under Ottoman law which henceforth considered them as Ahl al-Kitaab, members of an Abrahamic faith.

What is the religion of the Yezidi Nation?

The religion of Yezidi Nation is a monotheistic doctrinal system. Their religion is called Sharfadin. The Yazidis believe in God as creator of the world, which he has placed under the care of seven holy beings or angels, the chief of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. The sun is one of the symbols of their religious system, it symbolizes the angel Shams. There is no evil angel in Sharfadin, both the kind and the evil come from human being, and there no other force more supreme than God. The religion of Yezidi nation also forbids Yezidis to marry representatives of other nations.

What crimes has the Islamic State committed against the Yezidi Nation?

In August 2014, ISIS fighters overran Yezidi towns and villages around Sinjar, in northwestern Iraq, executing many men and capturing women and girls. Their intent soon became clear in slave markets ISIS set up in Mosul and elsewhere, where they sold the women and girls to their fighters into sexual or domestic slavery.

The “unimaginable horrors” that the Islamic State (ISIS) is committing against the minority Yezidis, documented in a report released on June 16 by the UN-mandated  Independent International Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Syrian Arab Republic, shows the urgent need for concrete steps to ensure justice for these crimes.

Human Rights Watch has found that the abuses against Yezidi women and girls, including abducting them and forcibly converting them to Islam and/or forcibly marrying them to ISIS members, amount to war crimes, may be crimes against humanity and may be part of a genocide against Yezidis. Women also reported that ISIS members took their children from them, physically abused their children, and forced the women and girls to pray or take Islamic names.

The commission   says that ISIS still holds about 3,200 women and children, most in areas it controls in Syria. The report says that separating men and women, inflicting mental trauma, taking children away from their families and forced conversions, are among methods intended to destroy Yezidis as a people.

There has been considerable attention to the plight of Yezidi women in the media, but little discussion on how to provide justice for these terrible crimes. The commission says the UN Security Council should “refer the situation to justice, possibly to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or an ad hoc tribunal.”