yazidi

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I am completely in awe of Amal’s eloquence and Nadia’s strength. This is how you make change. This is how advocates and activists should act.

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This #womensmarch day I choose to remember the #YAZIDI girls who have witnessed their fathers, sons, brothers & husbands mass murdered. They however were not given the “opportunity” (you’ll see why if you read on) to die, they were captured and many still are hostages to ISIS.

The Yazidi girls have been assaulted, abused and used as sex slaves. The ISIS members see the Yazidi’s as Satanic and therefore kill the men but make use of the females. The girls and women are kept as wives or war booty, they are sold and used amongst Daesh. The men of ISIS are impregnating the women to infiltrate their bloodlines. The Yazidi girls known for their blonde hair, blue & green eyes are of interest to these men as you can read above and thus were likely easy to spot from others. The lives these women are made to live are not lives at all, they are in a living hell, death is something many pray for.
  The Kurdish girls who fight for the Yazidi freedom and the freedom of their land & people say they keep a spare bullet just in case they are ever caught by ISIS, just so they can KILL THEMSELVES rather than live the horrific lives that ISIS provide these women with.
 Some do get to die though, but it’s not a pill or a bash to the head and an instant death, no, these are horrific deaths, acid, torture, barbaric acts you don’t even want to think of.

Spare a thought for them when you’re moaning about tampon tax.

I’m reading Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms, a book about religious minorities in the Middle East by Gerard Russell, a former British diplomat who represented the UK in the region for 14 years. He has a thorough knowledge of various primary sources on religion in the Middle East, and he speaks fluent Arabic and Persian, so he’s able to get firsthand accounts from members of these faiths. So far I’ve read the first two chapters, on the Mandaeans and the Yazidis.

It very much seems that the Mandaeans, Yazidis, Alawites, and other, now-extinct groups such as the Manicheans, Harranians, and various Gnostic sects were all part of a great religious ferment from approximately the end of the Hellenistic era to the early Middle Ages in which different groups mixed and matched various ideas and practices, including asceticism and vegetarianism, astrology and planet worship, Greek philosophy and Mithraic customs, Jewish and Babylonian magic, and curious inversions - or as we might say today, “retcons” - of different aspects of Abrahamic mythology.

Some highlights from the first two chapters:

Mandaeans

  • Although monotheists, the Mandaeans regard the planets, sun, and moon as living beings with spirits, and pray to them in reverence and devotion.
  • Again, though monotheists, Mandaeans specifically invoke by name a variety of Babylonian deities in their magic, especially in dark magic - curses meant to cause disease, marital strife, and other misfortune. Gods invoked by Mandaeans to this very day include Libat, Bel, and Nebu.
  • On the same day as the Shi’a Ashura, Mandaeans observe their own day of mourning, sometimes even joining in with the Ashura processions. The reason for this day of mourning is unclear; some Mandaeans believe it commemorates the drowning of Pharaoh’s soldiers in the Red Sea.
  • The expression current in the twentieth-century Middle East, “First comes Saturday, then comes Sunday” - used by Christians in nervous foreboding that they might share the fate of their Jewish neighbors, and used by Islamists to threateningly remind Christians of their place - has been taken up by Mandaeans, whose holy day is Sunday. One Jewish exile in London remarked to a recently-arrived Mandaean: “We were on a Saturday, and you are on a Sunday. Now your Sunday has come.” (Almost all Iraqi Mandaeans have fled to the West or been killed by this point.)

Yazidis

  • There is seemingly no definitive account of Yazidi origins or theology; or if there is, the Yazidi elders have kept it a secret. Every Yazidi tells it a little bit differently.
  • The Yazidis regard the Greek philosophers as prophets.
  • The famed Sufi poet Mansur Al-Hallaj, martyred by the Abbasid Caliph Al-Muqtadir, gave a twist to the story of Satan that may have influenced the Yazidi account of Melek Taus. Al-Hallaj said that Iblis refused to bow down before Adam, thus rebelling against God, due to an uncompromising love for God, by which he refused to bow down before anyone else. Thus, he was merely misguided, not evil.
  • Yazidis identify Melek Taus, God’s regent over the universe, with Iblis or Azazael but not Satan. They relate an identical story about his motivation for not bowing down before Adam, and justify their veneration of such a figure by explaining that demons will be turned into angels not just at the end of time, but that it has already happened: After his rebellion, Azazael was exiled for seven thousand years, and he cried so profusely his tears extinguished the fire of hell. He was then forgiven by God and accepted as the chief of the angels once more.
  • This concept bears a certain resemblance to the ideas of Christian Church Father Isaac of Nineveh, who taught that at the end of time, everything in the universe would be redeemed - “Demons would not remain demons, nor sinners sinners.”
  • I knew that Yazidis had a close relationship with Christians in Armenia, where Melek Taus is identified with the Archangel Michael. But apparently Yazidis have had a special relationship with Christians for a long time, seeing each other as allies against their Muslim persecutors. Yazidis sometimes pray at Christian shrines or wear crosses as amulets.
  • Yazidis perform a bull sacrifice on the tomb of the figure Sheikh Shams in Lalish, their holy city. The Akkadian deity Shamash was also honored with a bull sacrifice.
  • Yazidi men were traditionally obliged to grow a mustache, and the penalty for removing it was death. However, in modern times, this is no longer enforced, and many Yazidi men who have more modern lifetstyles trim or shave above their lips.
  • Yazidis abhor the name Satan/Shaytan, and the taboo against it was once so severely enforced that any Yazidi who heard the name had to hunt down and kill person who said it, and then kill themself for having heard it.
  • The Roman Christian pilgrim Egeria, travelling through Edessa in the 300s CE, wrote that its pagan inhabitants refused to catch or eat any of the fish from the local rivers, believing them to be sacred. Today, the Muslim inhabitants of modern Edessa - the Turkish city of Şanlıurfa - still believe in the holiness of the fish in the city’s streams, refusing to eat them.
  • The Harranians - a group that paired Greek philosophy with planet-worship, and persisted until around the 1100s, perhaps influencing the Yazidis - refrained from eating beans, just like the followers of Pythagoras.
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Nadia Murad was captured and sold as a slave by ISIS three years ago. She was taken from Kojo, a Yazidi village in northern Iraq. On June 1 2017, Murad finally returned home.