Iraqi Religious Minority Faces Extinction
Religion & Liberty Online

Iraqi Religious Minority Faces Extinction

The Yazidis are a tiny religious minority, Kurdish by ethnicity, who are facing extinction by the Islamic State in Iraq. While there are about 700,000 Yazidis worldwide, more than half a million were living in Iraq, although many have fled the violence in the nation. The Yazidis trace their religious roots back to the 11th century, when an Ummayad sheik broke off from mainline Islam. Their ancient religion is a blend of Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Islam.

Yazidis believe that a supreme God placed the earth under the custody of seven holy beings, the most exalted of which is the Peacock Angel. For this, Yazidis are sometimes labeled as heretics or devil worshippers.

The Islamic State justifies the killing of Yazidis due to their heretical beliefs.

With the war in Iraq casting a wide net against those who are not Muslim, the Yazidis have been forced to flee to northern Iraq, in a mountainous region now under siege by Islamic militants. Cut off from essential supplies, the Yazidis are literally facing extinction there. About 40,000 Yazidis are believed to be in this region.

On August 6, the plight of these people was brought before the world:

A distraught Yazidi member of parliament in Baghdad made an impassioned appeal on behalf of her people: “An entire religion is being exterminated from the face of the Earth,” she said.

She also reminded parliament that the Yazidis have faced massacre after massacre in their long, tragic history, suffering “a long history of persecution, caught amid the overlapping ambitions of empires and later the emergence of fractious Arab states.” At least 800 Yazidis were killed in 2007 in a terror attack in northern Iraq.

There are plans by the U.S. to bring humanitarian aid via an airdrop of food and water to the Yazidis in northern Iraq.

Read “Iraq’s Widening War Imperils A Religious Minority” at NPR and “Who are the Yazidis?” at The Washington Post.

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.