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World Association of International Studies

Post The Yazidi
Created by John Eipper on 09/03/14 5:33 AM

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The Yazidi (Robert Gibbs, USA, 09/03/14 5:33 am)

Massoud Malek's assertion that Sunni's view Ezidies (Yazidis/Jazidis/Isidies) as worshipers of Yazid mistaking the western spelling of Yazidis is incorrect. Sunnis as well as Shi'as view the Ezidies (incorrectly) as devil-worshipers, which for them justifies the at-will murder and genocide of these people in Iran as well as Iraq.

Sadly, the Eizidies/Yazidis are a disappearing culture. Even if they were not hunted as they are now, by the end of this century (if not sooner) they will become a small footnote in the history of the region.

JE comments: Bob Gibbs and I had a phone conversation last week on the spelling of Yazidi/Ezidi, a culture which few in the outside world had heard of until the horrors of this year. Wikipedia prefers Yazidi, but also admits the variants Yezidi, Ezidi, and Yazdani. Regardless of the orthography, these people practice a religion as old as it is threatened. My question:  why can't Iran celebrate its ancient autochthonous religions? Besides the Yazidi, I have in mind the Zoroastrians.

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  • The Yazidi/Izadis (Massoud Malek, USA 09/04/14 9:10 AM)
    Robert Gibbs (3 September) is wrong to say that Izadis are persecuted in Iran, because there is not a single Izadi in Iran.

    Wikipedia is not always reliable, which is why I always check the source of anything I see in Wikipedia.

    According to BBC, "The ongoing [IS] persecution in [the Yazidi] heartland of the Mt Sinjar region west
    of Mosul is based on a misunderstanding of their name. Sunni extremists,
    such as IS, believe it derives from Yazid ibn Muawiya (647-683), the
    deeply unpopular second caliph of the Umayyad dynasty. Modern research,
    however, has clarified that the name has nothing to do with the
    loose-living Yazid, or the Persian city of Yazd, but is taken from the
    modern Persian 'ized,' which means angel or deity. The name Izidis
    simply means 'worshippers of god,' which is how Yazidis describe themselves."


    Yazd is a city in Iran and the center of Zoroastrians. As the BBC points out, the Yazidi faith has nothing to do with Yazd. I asked my brother who is a famous archeologist in Iran and published about 30 books, about the Yazidis. He told me that the prophet Zardosht could have been born in the west of Iran, so there were many Zoroastrians in that area, but then, they were exposed to Mitraism, Christianity, and Islam, so several different faiths appeared in that region. Izadis, for example, baptize their children.

    Not a single Persian website calls the Izadis "Yazidis"; this is a western invention. Yazid, who fought with Imam Hussein and killed his family, is hated by Shias, but Iranians do not relate Izadis to Yazid.

    JE comments:  I too made the mistake to assume a Yazidi/Izadi presence in Iran, but we're all going through a learning curve about this culture.  Now my understanding is that this religion originated in Persia, but now the largest communities (per Wikipedia), are in Iraq, Germany, Syria...and Russia.  Georgia and Armenia also have significant Yazidi populations.

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    • The Yazidi (A. J. Cave, USA 09/05/14 2:24 AM)
      As far as I know, Yezidism (or Yazidism) is not a Persian (Iranian) religion. Yezidis are mostly ethic Kurds or Kurdish-speaking people, living in Northern Iraq (or what has been known as Northern Iraq roughly since the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916).

      They are rather obscure, and I don't know much about them. They have a website: http://www.yeziditruth.org/ and anyone who is interested can read more about them and their religion.

      According to this website, Yezidis consider their religion the oldest in the world, having originated in India. It could have been related or rooted in the ancient Indo-Aryan religions--one of them being the Mazdaean religion, better known as Zoroastrianism after Prophet Zarathushtra (Greek: Zoroaster).

      Yezidi is reportedly derived from ez Xwede dam, meaning: "I was created by God," or alternatively: "Follower of the true path."

      There are elements from Mithraism, Mazdaism, Christianity, Islam Sufism (Persian and Turkish), and probably other religions in Yezidism. They consider themselves to be descendants of the Biblical Adam (but not Eve).

      The confusion with Mazdaeans/Zoroastrians of Iran comes from the similarity of Kurdish word "Yezidi" to the Avestan word "Yazata," meaning: divine or divinity.

      The charge of devil worship comes from the Yezidi worship of Tawsi Melek, the Peacock King (translated here as angel). This deity rules the world on behalf of God. The Persian word for peacock is taa'vous which is similar to Kurdish tawsi, or tawuse.

      There is a new monograph on them, titled: The Yezidis: The History of a Community, Culture and Religion (2014, I.B. Tauris, http://tinyurl.com/q7geabm ), by Birgul Acikyildiz, an Art History Professor at the newly minted Turkish Mardin Artuklu University. She was formerly a Research Fellow of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford, so the information should at least well-researched.

      Yezidis show up in Arab history around 11th century. There is no doubt that they have an ancient religion and tradition, and as a people they are on the verge of extinction by the Islamic forces.

      JE comments:  We're learning a great deal about this heretofore overlooked culture, the Yazidi.  (There must be six or more different spellings, but to assist the users of the WAIS search engine, I'll standardize it to Yazidi.  This is the Wikipedia variant which also prevails in the English-language press.  Note, however, that the website above prefers Yezidi.)

      Here's a curiosity sticking in my rib:  how can you be a descendant of Adam but not Eve?

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