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Culture Under Attack: Who are the Iraqi Yazidis?

For a long time the outside world accused Yazidis of being "Devil-worshippers".  One of the most persecuted minorities in the Middle East, they face a possible genocide by advancing Islamic extremists.  Right now their culture is under attack as they gather atop Mount Sinjar.  Here are a few facts about this community to help you understand a little bit more about who they are:

  • They worship a fallen angel, the Malek Tawwus, or Peacock Angel. Unlike Satan, the Yazidis' angel was supposedly forgiven by God and returned to heaven
  • Even the mention of the word "Satan" is deeply offensive to them
  • They have kept their religion alive through "Talkers," men who are taught the entire text of their missing holy book - supposedly stolen by the British in colonial times
  • They never wear the color blue
  • They are not allowed to eat lettuce
  • They do not practise arranged marriage, like other communities in the region. They have a formal system of elopement, where a man must "kidnap" his bride. If the woman is willing, the parents have to accept the match
  • Most have fled to Australia, Canada and Germany
  • Iraq is the one place in the Middle East where a large community still exists
  • In Turkey, they were forced to carry identity cards that listed their religion as "XXX"
  • The Yazidis say they have survived 72 genocides

For a terrific photographic essay on one of Yazidi communites of northern Iraq in 2006, check out Agence France Presse photographer Safin Hamed's work.

The Yazidis of Iraq

Picture: SAFIN HAMED/AFP

A green, tree-filled park with a tall, two-story pagoda in the middle.