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Here’s Why ISIS Targeted Yazidi People

After overtaking large portions of Iraq in 2014, the Islamic State had killed thousands of Yazidis in a terror campaign that the United Nations declared a genocide

The story dates back to November 2016 when two mass graves consisting of at least 18 Yazidi people were found near Mosul in Iraq. These were two of an estimated 40 such graves authorities expected to discover as they seized the region back from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant(ISIS). After overtaking large portions of Iraq in 2014, the Islamic State had killed thousands of Yazidis in a terror campaign that the United Nations declared a genocide.

So who are the Yazidi people?

Well, the Yazidis are a religious and ethnic minority, with a worldwide population of 7,00,000 and a majority of them reside in Iraq’s northern provinces. Most of them identify as Kurdish ethnically and speak the language too. However, while Iraqi Kurds follow Sunni Islam, Yazidis follow their own religion. Their religion is a blend of Islam, Christianity, and Zorastrian elements.

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Although it is difficult to say how old Yazidism is, many scholars believe it dates back to ancient Mesopotamia or the beginning of civilization in what is now Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Other religious groups migrated to Iran and India around 3000 BC, leaving the early Yazidis to establish livelihood and grow their community.

Yazidi
Other religious groups migrated to Iran and India around 3000 BC, leaving the early Yazidis to establish communities. Wikimediacommons

Yazidism, like Christianity and Islam, is a monotheistic religion. However, it is not Abrahamic because Yazidis worship a much older supreme god known as ‘Yasdan.’ Yasdan created the world and entrusted it to seven angels, according to their scriptures. Tawse Melek, the chief of those angels refused to submit to Yasdan and was disavowed by the god but forgiven later.

This story is often compared to the Quran’s description of Satan, and thus many Muslims accuse Yazidis of worshipping the devil. Their worship of Tawsi Melek is why Yazidis have been the subject of marginalization and brutality for hundreds of years.

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According to Yazidi historians, Ottoman and Kurdish leaders tried to exterminate the Yazidis through mass murder in the 18th and 19th centuries, resulting in at least 72 genocides. Even under former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the religious minority was subjected to indecent assaults. Later in 2007, a series of suicide bombings in Yazidi villages killed more than 500 people.

Yazidi
Their worship of Tawsi Melek is why Yazidis have been the subject of marginalization and brutality for hundreds of years. Wikimediacommons

However, ISIS has posed the greatest threat to the Yazidis. In just one month in August 2014, Islamic State killed over 5000 Yazidi men and kidnapped over 7000 Yazidi women. Yazidi towns were devastated as a result of their brutal cleansing, forcing residents to move to other parts of Iraq and Syria. Nevertheless, with ISIS losing territory in the region, many Yazidis have been able to return to their homes; Yet, thousands still live in refugee camps.

BY JAYA CHOUDHARY

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