21st century genocide – The Yazidi

Few can have escaped seeing the footage in the last week of the “genocide” being inflicted on the Yazidi people in Iraq.  To many they are just another bad news story but for various reasons I have always had an affinity for the Yazidi and the closely related Zoroastrians.

The recent massacres of the Yazidi have little to do with their race which like many others in the region are Kurdish rather than Arabic, instead this ancient people suffer due to their religion.

Yazidi Peacock Angel.

Yazidi Peacock Angel.

The Yazidi have one of the worlds oldest religions which is related to Zoroastrianism, a pre-Islamic religion in Iran.  The first year in their calendar is 4,750 BC which makes their calendar around 1,000 years older than the Jewish calendar, 2,750 years older than the Christian calendar and other 3,000 years older than the Islamic one.    They are truly an ancient people and their faith has been influenced by the many religions that have appeared in the last 7 millennia.

The Yazidi are being persecuted by barbaric extremists who proclaim to be Muslim though in reality seem to be about as Muslim as Britney Spears which isn’t very much the last time I checked.  They are a monotheistic people which means they believe in one God and their belief includes the fact that the world was put into the care of 7 Angels with the highest of these known as Melek Taus or the Peacock Angel who refused the command of God to bow down in front of Adam.  Melek Taus who being God’s first creation insisted that as he was an emanation of Gods glory and that he shouldn’t bow to Adam who was merely dust.  Melek Taus is also called Shaytan which is the name used in the Koran for the Devil, Satan.

Many Muslims, particularly those now massacring the Yazidi believe them to be devil worshippers although there is no evidence whatsoever that this is the case.  There is also no evidence at all that the Yazidi themselves believe the Peacock Angel to be the Devil as Muslims or indeed Christians understand it.  And as they created their religion 4 or 5 thousand years before the later ones, who can really believe they are at fault?

The Yazidi honour Melek Taus, not because he disobeyed God but because he repented and spent 7,000 years crying in sorrow at what he had done after seeking redemption with his tears putting out the fires of hell. Besides which Yazidi believe that God tested Melek Taus and that when he refused to bow down before Adam then he passed the test by following good rather than evil.

The Yazidi believe that Good and Evil are predominantly inside people themselves and by holding Melek Taus in such esteem, they are trying to follow his example to choose the path of goodness.

Having said all that, the Yazidi faith has been influenced by Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism and though I couldn’t proclaim myself as a follower of Melek Taus, it certainly doesn’t seem like a justified reason to commit genocide against them. Who really has the right to re-interpret the believes of a religion that pre-dates others by many thousands of years.  How stupid to persecute someone because a word in their language means something else in another language.

The Yazidi numbers have been declining for over a century and like many Christians and Zoroastrians, they have fled the countries which they have lived in since time began due to Muslim extremists that are little more than medieval barbarians.

The Kurds have been living peacefully and prosperously for many years now whilst the rest of Iraq and Syria have been torn apart.  Currently in an attempt to stop tens of thousands of people being murdered or dying of thirst and starvation, American forces have started targeting ISIS and the RAF has started humanitarian aid drops around Mt. Sinjar, one of the holiest sites to the Yazidi.

Sinjar Yazidi Temple

Sinjar Yazidi Temple

The recent calls for military action to stand up for helpless civilians also shows up the hypocrisy of western powers who in the space of a week supply weapons to a power targeting civilians and then get outraged when another group of people are attacked.   Maybe we should treat all countries equally depending on how they treat their own people and their enemies.

Minority groups like the Yazidi deserve to be protected whether they are being attacked by friends or foes.  Christians too are suffering and have been targeted in some of the oldest Christian communities over recent years in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Israel/Palestine.  When the Turkish Ottomans enacted genocide on the Christians of Armenia, many Christians were saved by Yazidi families and Jesus is even mentioned in some Yazidi prayers.

It would be a tragedy if their near 7,000 years of history, culture, religion and peaceful co-existence were to end now.



About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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8 Responses to 21st century genocide – The Yazidi

  1. Ankur Mithal says:

    Shocking developments. Peacable AND prosperous seems to be lethal combination. I wonder if the religion that seeks to wipe them out would be so keen if they were peacable AND poor.


  2. thank you so much for writing this, it really helps to understand some of the history behind these conflicts. and that vulnerable people(s) need to be protected whoever, wherever they are.


    • You are very welcome. I’m glad it has been useful. This one mostly seems down to just that one bit of bad luck that the Yazidi deity shares the same name with the much later Koranic name for the Devil. It’s stupid really as we all know the word for something in one language can mean something totally different in another.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. msauthorette says:

    Thanks for this history lesson; it helps to make the conflicts a bit more understandable. I really don’t understand the Muslim extremists, because the rest of the Muslim community blasts them verbally (saying they aren’t an accurate representation of the religion) yet they have Muslim countries quietly backing them up, financially. Seems like a contradiction to me.


    • I know, it seems all the people who could actually help just speak words but do no action. All the Muslim countries in that region are so divided and barely get on at all. Much of the problem goes back to the Sunni and Shia split but also because only so much of the relgion was set out in the Koran and then afterwards so much more was added in the form of the Hadiths which not everyone accepts equally or just as badly, they put too much weight on one or two parts and not the rest which is where the extremists get their ideas from. It doesn’t help that Saudi Arabia is ruled by a family that follow a very extreme form of Islam called Wahabism that only appeared 100-200 years ago is very austere and old fashioned but because of the wealth of the country they can influence events around them whilst the USA, UK and Europe support Saudi Arabia because of the oil and because as bad as they are, they are reliable and non-violent.


  4. Amy Reese says:

    Thanks for the history of the Yazidi. I didn’t know very much about them, and didn’t realize their religion was so ancient. What’s happening over there is shocking and sad. There seems to be no end it it.


  5. kiwiskan says:

    Agreed. All people need to be able to live out their beliefs in peace


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