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Religions of the world

The Yazidi branch of Yazd'nism

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The Yazidi (a.k.a. Yezidi and Ezdae; 'zid't' or 'zid' in Kurdish) belong to the smallest of the three branches of Yazd'nism.

According to Wikipedia, Yazidis mainly:

"... live near Mosul, Iraq with smaller communities in Armenia (some 40,000 according to 2001 census), Georgia, Iran, Russia (31,273 as per 2002 census), Syria, and Turkey (some 80,000 in 1970; 23,000 in 1985 and 377 people in 2007). They number around 500,000 individuals in total, but estimates vary on their population size, partially due to the Yazidi tradition of secrecy when asked about one's religious beliefs. Yazidi refugees also live in Europe (specifically in Germany) and the United States. 1,2

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of mis-information on the Internet and various media about the Yazidis. 11

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Yazidi origins:

The origin of their religion pre-dates Islam. Some have estimated that they have existed since 2000 BCE, about the time when the Bible implies that Abraham lived. Another source suggests that their religion dates back to the time of the Umayyad caliphate, 661 to 750 CE. 3 Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir, a 12th century holy man laid down many of the Yazidi ceremonies and is deeply revered. 4 During the 15th and 16th centuries CE, they moved from southern Iraq into the mountains of northern Iraq.

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Yazidi beliefs:

There is a massive amount of misinformation on the Internet and in the media concerning the Yazidis. The Yezidi Human Rights Organization reports:

In the past 20 years to present, ... the Internet has become the easiest way to find information regarding whatever a person wish to search for. We have seen that more than 99% of the writers accusing the innocent Yezidi as devil worshipers, this is absolutely pure fiction." 13

The following description is believed to be accurate:

bulletYazidis believe that the name of their religion is derived from the word "Yezdan" or "'zid" which means "God."

bulletTheir religion appears to shows elements absorbed from:

bulletAncient Persian religions, including Zoroastrianism;



bulletSunni, Shiite and Sufi traditions within Islam;



bulletMithraism -- a close rival to Christianity in the Roman Empire, particularly among the military and civil service before it was crushed; and perhaps

bulletOther ancient Pagan religions from the Middle East and Greece.

bulletThey believe that God created the world as a pearl. He later reconstructed it in its current form and size.

bulletThe world is in the care of seven Holy Beings, generally referred to as archangels, who are periodically reincarnated in human form.

bulletThe principal archangel is the Peacock Angel which they call Melek Ta'us. Ta'us' name may have been related to the Greek words "Zeus" and Theos, meaning "God." Yazidi look upon Melek Ta'us as "God's Angel," the leader among the angels, roughly comparable to the archangel Michael within Christianity. He is regarded as God's representative on Earth. He comes down to Earth once a year during springtime, on the first Wednesday of the month of Nisan. They celebrate this as New Year's day.

bullet They believe that God first created Melek Ta'us from his own illumination as the original and highest archangel. He then created the six archangels and ordered them to bring him dust from the earth. God then built the body of Adam -- the first human -- from the dust, and finally breathed life into Adam. This belief closely parallels that of Genesis 2:7 in the Bible.

bullet Another name for the Angel is "Shaytan," which unfortunately is the same name as is used for Satan in the Qur'an -- the Muslim holy book. This has caused many Christians and Muslims in Iraq to assume that the Yazidis are worshiping the Satan found in the Bible and Qur'an. The Yazidi deny this, saying that they do not believe in the existence of a devil.

bulletThey believe that Adam gave birth to a baby boy from whom the Yazidis are all descended. Other humans share both Adam and Eve as their first parents. Because of this belief, they do not accept converts from outside of their group.

bulletThey reject the idea of Hell, but believe that the seven archangels live in Heaven

bullet They believe in transmigration of the soul at death, after which it reincarnates into either another human, or in an animal or plant. 2
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Yazidi practices:

bulletThe Yazidi speak primarily Kurdish except in some areas like the villages of Bashika and Bashane where they speak a dialect of Arabic with some words of Turkish, Kurdish and Syrian origin.

bulletThey use the term 'zid' or 'z'd' to refer to themselves.

bulletTheir main holy site is in Mosul, Iraq.

bulletThey follow two holy books: Kit'ba Cilwe (Book of Revelation) and the Mishefa Reş (Black Book).

bulletThey have strong purity taboos: marrying outside of the group, having excessive contact with non-Yazidis, wearing blue clothing, eating lettuce, spitting or pouring hot water on the ground, sharing cups or razors with outsiders, etc are all forbidden.

bulletBoys are frequently circumcised.

bulletChildren are baptized at birth.

bulletNormally, Yazidi males have only one wife. However, chiefs are allowed to engage in polygyny.

bulletThey are divided into three castes: the murids, sheikhs and pirs.

bulletThey pray five times during the day, at dawn, sunrise, noon, afternoon and sunset. During the noon prayer, they face Lalish, a valley about 37 miles (60 km) north-east of Mosul in Iraq where the tomb of their founder is buried. At other times, they orient their face to the sun.

bulletAt least once during their lifetime, they are expected to make a six day pilgrimage to Lalish to visit various sacred locations.

bulletYazidis who live near Lalish are expected to make a yearly pilgrimage to attend the Feast of the Assembly from the 23rd of the month of Elul to the 1st of Tishrei; this occurs in our month of September.

bulletAfter death, they are immediately buried in conical tombs. 2


bulletThe past: According to Aidan Sheikh-Kalo, director of the Yazidi Cultural Center in Los Angeles, CA, the Yazidi have survived a total of 73 campaigns of violence by Turks, Arabs, Persians and Kurds during their history. 5

bullet picture of Duá Khalil Aswad Honor killing: Du'a Khalil Aswad, about 17, was a young woman -- an Iraqui Kurd of the Yazidi faith from the village of Bashika near Mosul in northern Iraq. She violated one of the Yazidi's prime taboos: she fell in love with an outsider -- a young Kurd who follows the Sunni tradition of Islam. She is believed to have been involved in a relationship with the young man and had been absent from her home over one nighttime. At least some of her relatives believed in rumors that she had converted to Islam. 14

About 2007-APR-07, as punishment for this honor crime she was stoned to death in her village by a group of eight or nine men in the presence of a large crowd estimated at one to two thousand men. Some of her executioners appeared to be close relatives of the woman. It took about 30 minutes for her to die. The execution was recorded on mobile phones. A video was later placed on the Internet. 6 There are allegations that the execution was viewed by members of the local police who did not intervene. Her body was dragged behind a car, taken to the outskirts of the town, and burned. She was later buried with the remains of a dog -- a despised animal. An autopsy revealed that she had died of a fractured skull and spine.

Rumors spread that the reason for her stoning was related to her conversion to Islam. This triggered reprisals against Yazidis by Sunni Muslims including a massacre of 23 Yazidis in Mosil during 2007-APR. A similar attack which killed almost 800 Yazidis occured in Kahtaniya and Jazeera during 2007-AUG. They resulted in the deaths of almost 800 Yazidis.

There are dozens of reports of honor crimes in Iraq yearly, particularly in the north of the country which is mainly Kurdish. In almost cases, girls or women are the victims. They are executed because their behavior was considered immoral and had shamed their families. They are typically stoned to death by some of their male relatives. Their local culture teaches that only through execution can the family's honor be restored.

There are now laws in the Kurdish area against honor killing. However prosecutions are rare. 7 In Aswad's case, as of 2007-MAY-21, four men had been arrested -- two from the victim's family. Four others were being sought. Three police officers who were present at the scene may be fired. The most senior police officer in Bashika was replaced. 8

bulletThe 2007 Mosul massacre: Apparently in retaliation for Aswad's stoning, an armed group believed to be Sunni stopped a bus that was traveling from Mosul to Bashika. They separated the Yazidis from the Christian and Muslim passengers on the basis of the religion recorded on their identity cards. The Yazidis, numbering 23 men, were driven to east Mosul, lined up against a wall. and shot. None survived. 9

bullet The 2007 Qahtaniya bombings: Between 250 and 500 Yazidis died and 375 were injured in four coordinated suicide bomb attacks that leveled residential areas in the town of Qahtaniya near Mosul. It was the deadliest attack on this group during the Iraqui civil war so far. The bombings involved a fuel tanker, three cars, and two tons of explosives. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been blamed for the attack. They had allegedly distributed leaflets previously that denounced the Yazidis as "anti-Islamic" and blasphemers.  5,10 maintains a description of breaking news regarding the oppression of the Yezidi people. 11 This site also has a chronology of some of the 72 major attacks that they have suffered. 12

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. T. Reshid, "Yezidism: historical roots," International Journal of Kurdish Studies, 2005-JAN, at:
  2. "Yazidi," Wikipedia, at:
  3. "Syria: Yazidi,", at:
  4. "Paul Schemm, "Beleagured Yazidi find peace high in Iraq's northern mountains," Christians in Iraq, 2006-OCT-13, at:
  5. Iraq bombings 'act of ethnic cleansing'," Toronto Star, 2007-AUG-16, Page AA1 & AA4.
  6. A video of the stoning is available. See:
  7. "Iraq: Amnesty International appalled by stoning to death of Yezidi girl and subsequent killings," Amnesty International, at:
  8. "Four arrested in Iraq 'honor killing'," CNN News, 2007-MAY-21, at:
  9. "2007 Mosul massacre," Wikipedia, at:
  10. "The 2007 Qahtaniya bombings," Wikipedia, at:
  11. "The Truth about the Yezidis," at:
  12. "Yezidi Genocide," at:
  13. "Yezidi Human Rights Organization" has a home page at:
  14. "Stoning of Duá Khalil Aswad,"Wikipedia, as on 2014-NOV-12, at:

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Copyright © 2007 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-AUG-16
Latest update: 2011-AUG-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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