5 things you didn’t know about Yazidis

BY Dave Sloan and Hari Sreenivasan  August 9, 2014 at 12:41 PM EDT
An Iraqi Yazidi girl who fled with her family the violence in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, stands at at a school where they are taking shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohuk in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, on August 5, 2014. Photo by Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

An Iraqi Yazidi girl who fled with her family the violence in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, stands at at a school where they are taking shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohuk in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, on August 5, 2014. Photo by Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

Hari Sreenivasan recently spoke with Professor Christine Allison about the Yazidis, a Kurdish religious minority group who are being targeted by Islamic militants in Iraq. Professor Allison teaches at the University of Exeter where she focuses on Kurdish History and politics. She shared her knowledge of the Yazidis and their history.

  • The Yazidis are Kurdish speaking religious minority group. There are currently a few hundred thousand worldwide, but the largest population are in Iraq.
  • The Yazidi religion doesn’t have roots in Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, but borrows elements from other religions. Some believe that it might have originated in ancient Iran. Their holy shrines are all in the lands they are now fleeing.
  • Yazidis have been persecuted for more than 200 hundred years. During the Ottoman Empire they were one of the many minority groups forced to convert and join the Ottoman Army. They have endured repression by AL Qassam, Sadam Hussein and now the Islamic State.
  • There is an international diaspora community that live in Europe, but the Yazidis that live in Northern Iraq are the last remaining community from their ancient roots.
  • Yazidis believe in reincarnation of the divine in human form.