Historically, the Yazidis have their roots stemming from to a Kurdish religious minority which is an ethnic group inhabited in the Middle East and neighboring countries. The Kurds, however, are culturally and linguistically classified amongst the Iranians.
The vast majority of Yazidis reside in the mountainous region of Kurdistan which is on the border of Turkey, Syria and Iraq. They live in Kurdistan and speak Kurdish, despite that, their religious beliefs greatly differ from their fellow Kurds. They trace the crystallization of their religion into its present form back to this period 6,000 years ago.
These Yazidis are endogamous, as their beliefs are strictly confined to marrying within a specific caste, social group or ethnic races, whilst rejecting those who do not befall the criteria. These people are very particular about their beliefs and traditions which explains why these form a particularly integral part of their identity.
Besides this, for over centuries, the Yazidis claim to be monotheists, who share the notion of a static, inactive and transcendental God being the Creator of the world, who had sent 7 angels to safeguard this world and His people, as per a few narrations according to their Bible.
These people consider themselves as the single key factor in defining Yezidism, and strongly condemn conversions.
However, some people relate Yazidi practices and beliefs as mystical reflections of Iblis who disregarded God’s command of prostrating before Adam (A.S) – This clearly warrants as to why Yazidis are known as devil-worshippers.
On the other hand, it is strongly believed that Yazidis are a mere representation of heretical Muslims and Christians.
While some say, they are an offshoot of the common religion of Persia; Zoroastrianism, the complicated truth still remains unknown to the world.
Following are some of their four holy festivals:
- The New Year
- The Feast of Sacrifice
- The Feast of Seven Days, Sept 23-30
- The first Friday of December feast following three days of fasting.
Since Yazidis live in widespread communities located in present-day Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Iran, their population estimate is unknown as the estimates may vary.
Almost three years have passed since the black banners of the terror organization, calling themselves the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) were first steered throughout the Yazidi heartland of Sinjar.
300,000 vegetate in camps as Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Iraqi Kurdistan; thousands of others have been killed, are missing, or remain in captivity where they are subjected to unspeakable sexual and physical abuse.
In doing so, they highlight the views of the fundamentalist Islam practiced by ISIS that encourages sex-slavery, while elaborating on how the survivors escaped, as well as how they were received and treated by the Yazidi community and state authorities.
It is believed that the genocide had accelerated the process of the Yazidi self-identification as a unique ethno-religious entity; which, in turn, has produced changes to their religious traditions.
Bearing this caveat in mind, and with deference for these victims of violence, and without detracting from the collective suffering and trauma of the entire Yazidi community of Sinjar, the present write-up focuses, nevertheless, on the plight and misery of the females.
They have suffered and are still suffering the most. Their engineered anguish is certainly a central aspect of the present Yazidi genocide.
The enslavement of the Yazidi women is undeniably a cornerstone of ISIS’s strategy to eradicate Yazidis and Yezidism from the face of the earth.
In most places, those elderly and disabled Yazidi unfit for work were simply allowed to leave—though there were quite a few instances where they were offered the cynical choice to convert and leave, or to be executed.
However, survivors report that some elderly women were kept captive, and moved from prison to prison for no apparent reasons.
Males, including boys who had just reached puberty, were ordered to convert to Islam. Those who converted became slaves, and some of them were forcibly drafted into ISIS fighting units; whilst the ones who resisted were executed instantly.
In most cases, trucks took them to a pit that was previously excavated by ISIS. Then they were either shot, or buried alive—so far, some 30 mass graves have been discovered.
Females past puberty were also ordered to convert but were enslaved regardless of their answer. Babies, toddlers, and young children (below the age of eight) could stay with their mothers; while most of the slightly older female children were separated from their mothers and pressed into slavery.
On the other hand, the boys were coerced into training camps with the aim of educating and transforming them into fanatical ISIS fighters.
Although some of the females were sold to the local Sunni population, which used them as domestic or field slaves, the fate of the majority, including the female children, was to be abused as sex slaves.
ISIS commanders awarded a smaller number of the latter to individual fighters, while the majority of girls were sold: either to ISIS members or to males among the local population.
IS continues to subject about 3,000 Yazidi women and girls in Syria to horrific violence, including daily rapes and beatings, the commission said, adding that it had received reports of IS fighters trying to sell enslaved Yazidi women and girls as international forces.
According to UN investigators, the so-called “Islamic State” is committing genocide against the ancient indigenous Yazidi ethno-religious minority in Iraq and Syria.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report based on interviews with more than 100 alleged victims and witnesses documenting a multitude of crimes committed by IS, including killings, torture, rape, sexual slavery and recruiting child soldiers.
The “is ISIS Islamic?” debate can seem circular and exhausting. But it’s an important one nonetheless.
The impulse to separate Islam from ISIS for scholars of Islamist movements and Islam’s role in politics, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, there should be one overarching objective: to understand and to explain what is unrelated and divorced, rather than to make judgments about which interpretations of Islam are correct, or who is or isn’t a “true” Muslim.
But if the goal is to understand ISIS, then I, and other analysts who happen to be Muslim, would be better served by cordoning off our personal assumptions and preferences. What Islam should be and what Islam is actually understood to be by Muslims (including extremist Muslims) are very different things.