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The Yazidis

Religion has a knack for being heavily misunderstood and misinterpreted. The Yazidi, a minority group, is perhaps one of the most persecuted Kurdish minority groups. They originated during the fall of the Umayyad Dynasty and are seen as an amalgamation of Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism. They are scattered across northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, north of Syria and parts of Iran, consisting of 2,00,000 to 10,00,000 followers. Yazidi mythology sets it apart from other religions as it is said to have descended from Adam instead of Eve. They ensure their segregation from the rest of the world so that one cannot convert to Yazidi instead has to be born into it. They believe that there is a God, referred to as Xwede, who handed over worldly affairs to seven holy beings. One of these the Melek Tawus is seen as the primary representative of God and is prayed to 5 to 7 times a day. Melek Tawus is also Arabic for Satan, causing the community to be mislabeled as devil worshippers. The community is highly concerned with religious purity with certain foods, the colour blue and the word with phonetic resemblance to Satan being banned. Furthermore, contact with the outside, military service and formal education are highly discouraged. In the early 12th century, a Sufi descendant of the Umayyad dynasty settled in the north of Mosul and started teaching and propagating Sufism. These teachings were orthodox however slowly blended with local instructions leading to the creation of a distinct Yazidi community. By the 15th century, Muslim rulers in the region viewed them as rivals and started clashing with them. The Yazidi's power slowly declined due to a series of massacres and conversions. Over the years, the persecution faced by them only increased, with the Ottoman empire subjecting the community to over 72 genocidal massacres. Even as recently as 2007, hundreds of Yazidis were killed in a series of car bombings in Northern Iraq. Other acts of persecution include the 2014 entrapment of Iraqi minority communities by Islamic militants. Most of the trapped were Yazidis and could either flee to northwest Iraq or be slaughtered by encircling ISIS jihadists, moreover, over 7000 Yazidi women were enslaved and forced to convert to Islam. They were often raped and sold among the ISIS fighters. The militants even took young boys and put them in camps where they were brainwashed and trained to become soldiers. Today, the Yazidis do not have a home to go back to. With their major city destroyed and most of the population either dead or missing, they can only attempt to escape persecution, with terrorist organizations like Al-Qaida and ISIS constantly looking for a chance to kill them. This fear has caused the spiritual leader to cancel official religious ceremonies for several years. In southeast Turkey, the Yazidi villages have started coming back to life with many returning from exile as the Turkish government does not disturb them anymore. Even after having an extremely turbulent history, the Yazidis never once abandoned their faith or changed it to be more acceptable. Their practice of self-isolation coupled with years of repression has brought about a strong feeling of community and loyalty to the community. The Yazidis do not interfere with the outside world and hopped in turn the world won't bother them. However, this wishful thinking did not last long. With a dwindling population and never-ending tyranny, one of the most unique religions is facing a threat of extinction.

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