The Yazidis’ Religion & How the Kurds Abandoned the Yezidis – by Staffan Hasan

10620827_10152418495913640_8268481268681831408_nNote from Vasuvaj Editor of the World’s only Sanskrit Magazine Sambhashana Sandesh

Dear Dr. Staffan Hasan,

Extremely happy to receive your mail. It is very informative. Due to the constrains of space, we will translate some important aspects of your essay and publish it in our Sanskrit monthly magazine – Sambhashana Sandesha  [ ]I was surprised to see so many similarities between the ancient Yazidi faith and our Hindu faith. You had written the following:

A belief in the reincarnation of lesser Yazidi souls also exists, the Yazidis use the  metaphor of a change of garment to describe the process, which they call kiras  guhorîn in Kurmanji (changing the garment).

The same metaphor is present in many of our ancient texts. Bhagavadgita is one of those texts which is quite popular these days. Please go through this site


vasamsi jirnani yatha vihaya navani grhnati naro ‘parani tatha sarirani vihaya jirnany anyani samyati navani dehi As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.

Dr. Staffan Hasan, is a Medical doctor originally from the Sinjar of the Yazidi sect now lives in Sweden as a Swedish citizen wrote:

Yazidis: possibly from Persian yazdan (God). The principal feature of their worship is in the name of Muluk-Taus. However, it is not the Christian Satan, nor the devil in any form; their Muluk-Taus is the hundred- or thousand-eyed cosmic wisdom, pictured as a bird (the peacock).

The Yazidis’ religion, according to some sources is linked to ancient Zoroastrianism which belief in fallen-and-resurrected angels. 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” (archangel) of whom is Melek Taus, the “Peacock Angel.”

Yazidi accounts of creation differ from that of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They believe that God first created Tawûsê Melek from his own (God’s) illumination (Ronahî) and the other six archangels were created later. God ordered Tawûsê Melek not to bow to other beings. Then God created the other archangels and ordered them to bring him dust (Ax) from the Earth (Erd) and build the body of Adam. Then God gave life to Adam from his own breath and instructed all archangels to bow to Adam. The archangels obeyed except for Tawûsê Melek. In answer to God, Tawûsê Melek replied, “How can I submit to another being! I am from your illumination while Adam is made of dust.”

Then God praised him and made him the leader of all angels and his deputy on the Earth. Hence the Yazidis believe that God ordered the seven angels to build the universe. They completed universe in six days and archangel (Malak Taus, Tawûsê Melek) handed universe to God on the seventh day, and he called that day Charsham (Wednesday), which means the four directions of the universe. Tawûsê Melek is the representative of God on the face of the Earth and comes down to the Earth on the first Wednesday of Nisan (April), and Yazidis celebrate it as New Year’s Day and color eggs in various colors which represent greening of the earth.

Yazidis argue that the order to bow to Adam was only a test for Tawûsê Melek, since if God commands anything then it must happen. (Bibe, dibe). In other words, God could have made him submit to Adam, but gave Tawûsê Melek the choice as a test. They believe that their respect and praise for Tawûsê Melek is a way to acknowledge his majestic and sublime nature. This idea is called “Knowledge of the Sublime” (Zanista Ciwaniyê). Şêx Adî has observed the story of Tawûsê Melek and believed in him.

Is incorrectly but commonly called “devil worship” by outsiders and is precisely the kind of “idolatrous” faith Muslims have sought to extirpate since the days of the Prophet Mohammad, in spite of Yezidis´ religion don´t believe on Satan and they don´t have any explanation for that. Yazidis believe that good and evil both exist in the mind and spirit of human beings. It depends on the humans, themselves, as to which they choose. In this process, their devotion to Tawûsê Melek is essential, since it was he who was given the same choice between good and evil by God, and chose the good

Yezidis´ religion thought to be derived from very old Indo-European religions and they share with some religions in India in there rituals, specially temples and Sheikh and others.

Some theory says that it´s a part of ancient Mithraism. But because of very cruel nature of the area as it´s among Muslims, they suffered of several genocides specially during Ottomans which lead to loss of majority of their culture and traditions and largely became influenced of Islam and Arabic language.

The bulk of the Yazidi population lives in Iraq, where they make up an important Iraqi minority community. Estimates of the size of these communities vary significantly, about 500,000. They are particularly concentrated in northern Iraq in the Nineveh Province. The two biggest communities are in Shekhan, northeast of Mosul, and in Sinjar, at the Syrian border 80 kilometres (50 mi) west of Mosul. In Shekhan is the shrine of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir at Lalish. During the 20th century, the Shekhan community struggled for dominance with the more conservative Sinjar community.

Two key and interrelated features of Yazidism are: a) a preoccupation with religious purity and b) a belief in metempsychosis. The first of these is expressed in the system of caste, the food laws, the traditional preferences for living in Yazidi communities, and the variety of taboos governing many aspects of life. The second is crucial; Yazidis traditionally believe that the Seven Holy Beings are periodically reincarnated in human form, called a koasasa.

A belief in the reincarnation of lesser Yazidi souls also exists, the Yazidis use the metaphor of a change of garment to describe the process, which they call kiras guhorîn in Kurmanji (changing the garment).

Yazidi society is hierarchical. The secular leader is a hereditary emir or prince, whereas a chief sheikh heads the religious hierarchy. The Yazidi are strictly endogamous; members of the three Yazidi castes, the murids, sheikhs and pirs, marry only within their group, marriage outside the caste is considered a sin.

Yazidis have five daily prayers: Nivêja berîspêdê (the Dawn Prayer), Nivêja rojhilatinê (the Sunrise Prayer), Nivêja nîvro (the Noon Prayer), Nivêja êvarî (the Afternoon Prayer), Nivêja rojavabûnê (the Sunset Prayer). However, most Yezidis observe only two of these, the sunrise and sunset prayers.

Worshipers should turn their face toward the sun, and for the noon prayer, they should face toward Laliş. Such prayer should be accompanied by certain gestures, including kissing the rounded neck (gerîvan) of the sacred shirt (kiras). The daily prayer services must not be performed in the presence of outsiders, and are always performed in the direction of the sun. Wednesday is the holy day, but Saturday is the day of rest. There is also a three-day fast in December called Yezi(God) Fasts.

Similarly, the village Tawaf, a festival held in the spring in honor of the patron of the local shrine, has secular music, dance and meals in addition to the performance of sacred music.

Another important festival is the Tawûsgeran (circulation of the peacock) where Qewals and other religious dignitaries visit Yazidi villages, bringing the senjaq, sacred images of a peacock made from brass symbolising Tawûsê Melek. These are venerated, taxes are collected from the pious, sermons are preached and holy water distributed.

The greatest festival of the year for ordinary Yazidis is the Cejna Cemaiya “Feast of the Assembly” at Lalish, a seven-day occasion. A focus of widespread pilgrimage, this is an important time for social contact and affirmation of identity. The religious center of the event is the belief in an annual gathering of the Heptad in the holy place at this time. Rituals practiced include the sacrifice of a bull at the shrine of Şêx Shams and the practice of sema.

The most important ritual is the annual seven-day pilgrimage to the tomb of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir (Şêx Adî) in Lalish, north of Mosul, Iraq. A sacred microcosm of the world, as it were, it contains not only many shrines dedicated to the koasasa, but a number of other landmarks corresponding to other sites or symbols of significance in other faiths, including Pirra selat “Serat Bridge” and a mountain called Mt. Arafat. The two sacred springs are called Zamzam and Kaniya Sipî “The White Spring”.

If possible, Yazidis make at least one pilgrimage to Laliş during their lifetime, and those living in the region try to attend at least once a year for the autumn Feast of the Assembly which is celebrated from 23 Aylūl (September) to 1 Tashrīn (October). During the celebration, Yazidi bathe in the river, wash figures of Tawûsê Melek and light hundreds of lamps in the tombs of Şêx Adî and other saints. They also sacrifice an ox, which is one reason they have been connected to Mithraism, in addition to the presence of the dog and serpent in their iconography. The sacrifice of the ox is meant to declare the arrival of fall and to ask for precipitation during winter in order to bring back life to the Earth in the next spring. Moreover, in astrology, the ox is the symbol of Tashrīn.

The purity of the four elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water is protected by a number of taboos, e.g. against spitting on earth, water or fire. Some discourage spitting or pouring hot water on the ground because they believe that spirits or souls that may be present would be harmed or offended by such actions if they happen to be hit by the discarded liquid.

Children are baptized at birth and circumcision is required. Dead are buried in conical tombs immediately after death and buried with hands crossed.

Yazidi are dominantly monogamous but chiefs may be polygamous, having more than one wife. Yazidi are exclusively endogamous; clans do not intermarry even with other Kurds and accept no converts. They claim they are descended only from Adam and not from Eve.

In Iraq’s complex mosaic of sects and ethnicities it’s fair to say that the Yazidis are not quite as Kurdish as the mainstream Kurdish population would like them to be. They tend to see themselves first as Yazidis and only secondly as Kurds, whereas most other Kurds (who are largely Sunni in their faith) put their ethnic identity first.

Added to that is a long tradition of social discrimination, with derogatory stereotypes of the “devil worshipping” Yazidis shared by Iraqi Muslims, Kurds and Arabs alike. Muslims in the surrounded area usually say to the outsiders “Be careful, they are dirty and they do not shower many times for 40 days,” followed by warnings: “Don’t drink their water,” and, “Don’t drink their tea.”.

 How the Kurds Abandoned the Yazidis when ISIS Attacked

IS onslaught in the region of Sinjar this month suggest that the peshmerga and the political leadership in Iraqi Kurdistan misled them about the threat and abandoned them when they came under attack. Perhaps worse, still, many of the their Sunni Muslim neighbors, with whom they had lived and farmed for centuries, turned against them.

For years, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), one of the two ruling parties in the Kurdistan region, has poured money into the pockets of Yazidis in Sinjar who were willing to join the party. They also offered protection. In areas outside of Kurdish control, like Mosul, jihadists targeted Yazidis even before the recent offensive by IS. But in Sinjar, nestled at the southern foot of a large isolated mountain that rises like a vision from the surrounding plain,  the KDP assured the residents — including Yazidis and a smaller Christian population — that they were safe.

In return Sinjaris voted for the KDP in elections, paving the way for Kurdish political power in Ninewa province (Ninevah province) where, otherwise, there was not much of a non-Yazidi Kurdish presence.

After Mosul fell to ISIS two months ago, many Yazidis in Sinjar wanted to leave, and for good reason. But they were pressured to stay by local KDP officials. The sense of foreboding mounted by the day as IS fighters surrounded the Sinjar district on three sides. Only the border with Syria, to the west, was open. IS was in Baadj  to the south, Tel Afar and Mosul to the east (between Sinjar and the Kurdish capital of Erbil), and Rabiaa to the north of the mountain.

Rabiaa is home to the powerful Sunni Arab Shammar tribe, who have been friends and economic partners of the Yazidis in Sinjar for centuries. Yet some are now suspected of collaboration with IS against the Yazidis.

Despite the danger and fear of attack, locals consistently were discouraged from leaving Sinjar by local KDP and Kurdish government officials who reassured civilians that the peshmerga would keep them safe.

The higher-ups in the party told representatives to keep people calm, and that if people in their areas of coverage left their salaries would be cut.

Sarbast Baiperi, head of the KDP’s Branch 17 in Sinjar, could be seen in KDP media and on Facebook posing with various weapons and claiming that “until the last drop of blood we will defend Sinjar.”

When the IS fighters arrived in the village of Kucho in most southern part of Sinjar  2 weeks ago, they told the locals, most of whom are members of the Yazidi sect who follow an ancient faith, that they had 48 hours to decide whether to convert to Islam or die. When the 48 hours passed, the villagers were given another five hours, and that was extended to three days. Then, on Friday, time ran out. At noon — at what would have been the call to prayer for Muslim worshippers — the cell phones that villagers had used to stay in touch with relatives went silent.  But in spite of all Sarbast Baiperi and peshmerga continued keeping them quite by saying we will define Sinjar untill last drop of blood.

Since then there have been a few sporadic accounts of what happened.

But Sarbast Baiperi was one of the first to flee Sinjar, according to several sources. He rolled out of town the night before the attack had even started because he heard IS was on its way to the outlying villages of Seebaya and Tel Banat. And not only did he flee, but he fled in a single vehicle, telling no one but his guards. Late the next morning when townspeople fled in panic only minutes ahead of the advancing IS fighters, Baiperi was waiting at the Tirbka checkpoint north of the mountain near to the Syrian border.

Baiperi, unfortunately, was part of a greater trend.

Firsthand accounts from Sinjar paint a picture of withdrawal without a fight and without warning the local population.

The first quiet retreat was in the southern villages, which bore the brunt of the initial attack. Late into the night of Saturday, August 2, IS first launched mortars into Seebaya and Tel Banat, close to the militant group’s positions in Baadj district. In the early morning of August 3, Yazidi men, not peshmerga,  stood and fought thinking that the Kurdish forces would soon join in the battle. When they realized that wasn’t going to happen, many tried to escape over the mountain. While it is difficult at this point to estimate how many were killed, locals say the number was around 200.

If the Yazidi men had known the peshmerga would withdraw, they might have fled earlier as well. Alone, they were no match for the IS army.

North of the mountain, locals received no warning from peshmerga or KDP and government officials regarding the attacks. They heard about attacks from who lives south of the mountain.  They was told to stay calm and that there was no withdrawal. But when someone called Sarbast Baiperi’s guards they said he had left the night before and they themselves were already gone, and they confirmed the troop withdrawal.

So it was as late as 10 a.m. on that Sunday, after fighting had been going on for hours south of the mountain, that people in towns north of the mountain like Snuny, Khana Sor and Dugre started to leave. Many were only minutes ahead of IS. As they drove down the one safe from north of the mountain toward Dohuk, under firm Kurdish control, the peshmerga  abandoned each checkpoint, joining the exodus.

Soon the twin columns of refugee civilians and peshmerga came under sporadic fire, but the Kurdish government forces by then were neither positioned nor inclined to fight back.

There were Kurdish fighters who stood their ground, but they were from neighboring Syria, members of the so-called People’s Protection Units of a militia, affiliated with the Turkish-Kurdish PKK, that goes by the initials YPG. The group is famous for its many women warriors, and they were much in evidence fighting back against IS forces during the flight from Sinjar.

As the refugees approached Dohuk, furious at the spectacle of the peshmerga who had fled ahead of them, they hit a checkpoint where peshmerga were confiscating unauthorized weapons. The Sinjaris sent word back down their convoy: “Give your guns to the YPG!”

Other Sinjaris who had fled to the mountain eventually were extracted in a combined operation in which, once again, Syrian and Turkish Kurds of the PKK (which the United States and European Union define as a terrorist organization because of its long war against the Turkish government) played a central role.

Either way there is enough blame to go around: local peshmerga and officials should have helped evacuate people instead of simply withdrawing with the little ammunition and military vehicles they had. Higher-ups should have seen the obvious likelihood of an attack, with Sinjar being surrounded by IS.

Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, promised to investigate and punish peshmerga officers and KDP officials who left Sinjar, but it´s just bullshit, as many Yazidis see.

But for the time being a reprimand will not be enough to for the thousands of families from Sinjar spread huddled in makeshift shelters in the Dohuk region, who vow they will never forgive the KDP, Kurdistan and peshmerga or live under their political or military authority again.

Why were the Yazidis not better protected to begin with? Yazidis are not quite as Kurdish as the mainstream Kurdish population would like them to be. They tend to see themselves first as Yazidis and only secondly as Kurds, whereas most other Kurds (who are largely Sunni in their faith) put their ethnic identity first.

Added to that is a long tradition of social discrimination, with derogatory stereotypes of the “devil worshipping” Yazidis shared by Iraqi Muslims, Kurds and Arabs alike.

The plight of the Yazidis may have been one of the triggers that brought the United States and European powers into the war to fight IS and support the Kurds, but what the Yazidis really want now is get out of Kurdistan, to get out of Iraq, to find asylum in the West. “The peshmerga ran away; they left us and we can never trust them again,” Noble pronouncements about their defense do not sit well with them.

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