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Religions of the world

Part 2
The Yazidi branch of Yazd'nism:
Overview, origins, beliefs & practices.
ISIS' treatment of Yazidis called genocide.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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  • The 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. 1

  • 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 had 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. 2

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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. 3 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 Mosul during 2007-APR. A similar attack occurred 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. 4 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 because they did not intervene and save the woman's life. The most senior police officer in Bashika was replaced. 5

  • The 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. 6

  • 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 Iraqi 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. 1,7

  • During the civil war in Syria during 2014, ISIS (a.k.a. ISIL, Islamic State, Daesh) crossed into northern Iraq and captured many Iraqi border guards, soldiers, and citizens. Yazidis were among this group. Some were released, others were killed, and still others were held across the border in Syria.

    Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser currently in northern Iraq, commented:

    "A clear pattern is emerging whereby ISIS is deliberately targeting Iraq’s minorities as well as others suspected of opposing the group, singling them out for detention and abduction.

    Every day I meet families desperate to find their sons, husbands and brothers who have been taken by ISIS groups and whose fate and whereabouts are unknown.  Most do not want the names of their missing relatives mentioned because they fear for their safety. ...

    Killing detainees in custody is a war crime.  ISIS fighters have in the past displayed an appalling disregard for basic humanity. Anyone who is detained must be treated humanely." 8

  • The web site maintains a description of breaking news regarding the oppression of the Yazidi people. 9 This site also has a chronology of some of the more than 70 major attacks that they have suffered. 10
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Allegations of genocide of the Yazidi's committed by ISIS:

2016-JUN-16: United Nations investigators said that ISIS fighters have committed genocide and other war crimes, by launching an effort to exterminate the Yazidi religious minority in both Syria and Iraqi. As evidence they referred to mass killings of Yazidi men and boys who were shot in their head or had their throats slit -- often in the presence of their family. In areas of the countries that have been recaptured from ISIS, dozens of mass graves have been found.

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro is the chairman of the investigating panel, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. He issued a statement saying:

"Genocide has occurred and is ongoing. ... ISIS has subjected every Yazidi woman, child or man that it has captured to the most horrific atrocities. ... ISIS permanently sought to erase the Yazidis through killing, sexual slavery, enslavement, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, and forcible transfer causing serious bodily and mental harm."

He continued:

"The crime of genocide must trigger much more assertive action at the political level, including at the Security Council. ... Nothing has been done to save these people, and we hope for stronger action by the international community."

He has asked that the matter be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Unfortunately, that would take a majority vote by the UN Security Council as well as a withholding of veto by the five permanent members of the Council. This may be an impossible task.

Vitit Muntarbhorn, who is a Thai legal scholar and a member of the UN commission, referred to the report as "a wonderful gift" to the five permanent members of the Security Council "so that they can consider acting together."

Still, under the UN's genocide convention of 1948, signatory countries now have an obligation to prevent further acts of genocide against the Yazidis.

The U.N. report stated that:

"No other religious group present in ISIS-controlled areas of Syria and Iraq has been subjected to the destruction that the Yazidis have suffered."


ISIS follows the Islamic fundamentalist Wahhabi doctrine part of the main tradition of Islam -- Sunni Islam. The intensity of their hatred towards the Yazidis appears to be linked to two factors:

  • The Yazidis follow a unique religion other than Islam, and live in a predominately Muslim area.

  • The Yazidis revere a principal archangel called Melek Ta'us (a.k.a. the Peacock Angel) who is sometimes called "Shaytan." Unfortunately, this is the same name as is used for Satan in the Qur'an -- the Muslim holy book. Many Muslims have concluded that the Yazidis worship Satan. In reality, the latter lack a belief in a satanic supernatural being.

ISIS also regards the second largest tradition within Islam -- the Shias -- to be apostates. ISIS is exterminating Shias in those areas that they control, which currently includes parts of Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria. ISIS hopes to end up with a single pure form of Sunni Islam. A good case can be made that ISIS is committing genocide against both the Yazidi and the Shia.

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References used:

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

  1. Iraq bombings 'act of ethnic cleansing'," Toronto Star, 2007-AUG-16, Page AA1 & AA4.
  2. "Stoning of Duá Khalil Aswad,"Wikipedia, as on 2014-NOV-12, at:
  3. A video of the stoning is available. See:
  4. "Iraq: Amnesty International appalled by stoning to death of Yezidi girl and subsequent killings," Amnesty International, at:
  5. "Four arrested in Iraq 'honor killing'," CNN News, 2007-MAY-21, at:
  6. "2007 Mosul massacre," Wikipedia, at:
  7. "The 2007 Qahtaniya bombings," Wikipedia, at:
  8. "Iraq: Yezidis captured by ISIS amid mounting sectarian attacks," Amnesty International, 2014-JUL-01, at:
  9. "The Truth about the Yezidis," at:
  10. "2007 Mosul massacre," Wikipedia, at:
  11. "Yezidi Genocide," at:
  12. Nick Cummin-Bruce, "ISIS Committed Genocide Against Yazidis in Syria and Iraq, U.N. Panel Says " New York Times, 2016-JUN-17, at:

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Copyright © 2007 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-AUG-16
Latest update: 2016-JUN-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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