Who are the Yazidis?

They are part of an ancient, secretive religion founded in the 11th century (1,000 years old) that forbids marriage to non-members. It is impossible to become a Yazidi. Where are they from? Yazidis are Kurdish speakers. There are just 700,000 Yazidis worldwide and, of that umber, 600,000 are concentrated in northern Iraq. Their heartland is the north-western city of Sinjar, although most have fled.

Where do their beliefs come from? Some of it is pre-Islamic and their faith has borrowed from multiple traditions including Zoroastrianism, an ancient Iranian religion, Christianity and Islam. What do they believe? The Yazidis believe in one supreme being, known as Yasdan, created the Earth helped by seven angels. The most important of these is the Malak Tawous, the peacock angel to whom the Yazidis pray five times a day. Yazidis also believe in reincarnation, perform baptisms and circumcisions.

Why does the IS regard them as devil worshippers? The other name of Malak Tawous, Shaytan, means ‘devil’ in Arabic and this is what earned them the label of devil worshippers. Islam has, throughout history, always respected minorities and other religions and never persecuted any sects or factions. ISIS do not represent Islam and its members have been condemned by Muslims all over the world for their cruelty and savagery.

Who are Islamic State (IS)? Formed out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2013, IS first captured Raqqa in eastern Syria. By early 2014 it controlled Falluja in western Iraq and has since captured broad swathes of Iraq, seizing the northern city of Mosul in June. Fighting has displaced at least 1.2 million Iraqis. Pursuing an extreme form of Sunni Islam, IS has persecuted non-Muslims such as Yazidis and Christians, as well as Shia Muslims, whom it regards as heretics. In July alone, IS expanded dramatically, recruiting some 6,300 new fighters largely in Raqqa, according to an activist monitoring group.

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