» » The Yezidis (Ezidis) and Yezidism
To: The UN Officials
The Yezidis (Ezidis) and Yezidism
It is well known that Yezidism, or Zoroastrianism, being one of the
oldest religions of the Middle East, has greatly influenced the history
of mankind. The truth, always
evident from old and new books alike, is that this religious culture
was alive and dominant there as early as in the years between 1000 and
600 BC. By analysing the
elements of Zoroastrianism, which could be described as experiencing
Renaissance, we come to the conclusion that it represents a deep interrelation
and nature. The spiritual and physical conditions of Zoroaster himself,
as well as his role as the leader of the religious movement, demonstrate
that he was a philosopher
rather than a prophet. Doubtless, the Renaissance of Zoroastrianism,
as it has often been the case with other cultural movements, has largely
been based on social
structure and apparent shortcomings, characteristic of the regional
reality. It might propose answers to the questions of interrelationships
between Man and Eternity, not
only for the Kurdish people, who once were a powerful factor in the
Middle East, but also to other peoples who accepted Zoroastrianism as a
basic religious system.
Since developed in Kurdistan and since being the principal religion
of the whole Kurdish nation, it is only logical that all the religious
literature, prayers and teaching were
conducted in the Kurdish language. As a particular and important case,
the two Holy Books – Zend Avesta and Meshef Roj – are composed in Kurdish.
starting from 636-641 AD, the movement of Islam and their Arab propagators
reached the soil of Kurdistan. As a result of Arab invasion, the Kurdish
people were deprived
of their freedom; their religion, language and culture were subjected
to unprecedented robbery and destruction. It is right to claim that this
policy of annihilation of the
Kurds in general and the Yezidi Kurds in particular has been continuing
for centuries as initiated from Islamic centers of power identified with
the Arabs, Persians and
Turks. Since the Yezidis have always been the bearers of their Kurdish
identity, they would constantly become the main victims of the oppressing
In the twentieth century, Kurdistan with the blessing of Europe was
newly divided between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria. All these governments,
considering time factor,
used hidden and open policy of fragmentation, assimilation and expulsion
of the Yezidi Kurds. The regimes of the four states used their puppets
to do the same against
the Kurdish people as a whole. Such an outdated and unjust policy resulted
in the forced migration of hundreds of thousands of the Yezidi Kurds to
the various places in
the world. From its beginning, the Yezidi, or Zoroastrian religion,
has been everything but dogmatic. It approached human and natural factors
on the bases of knowledge,
opposed oppression and taught love and friendship. It is therefore
sad that today, when we all try to live in freedom and with tolerance,
this religion is being so visibly
It is a shame and dramatic that the mankind, despite proclaimed ideals
towards rights and freedoms, remains silent in the face of the religious
and cultural assault
against the Yezidis organised by the Turkish, Arab and Persian officials.
This religion, displaying a leading force behind the whole process of civilization,
is in danger of
being totally annihilated. That would be an indispensable loss not
only for the Kurds or the Yezidi believers, but also to the whole civilized
The Yezidis (Ezidis) and Yezidism
The question of what Yezidism is has for a long time been a subject
for scientists and historians. Unfortunately the issue has been complicated
for several reasons, the
chief being that the scientific truth has been exchanged with political
interests. This of course is related to the Kurdish issue the problems
The enemies of Kurdish people have tried to hide the historical facts
that Yezidism and Kurdishness are not separable. They tried to eradicate
and misrepresent the
Kurdish cultural inheritance by massacres, notoriously known as Firmans.
At present, they are doing the same thing within the context of a well
organized plan and the
main responsibility for this goes to certain circles in the West Europe.
They have succeeded to manipulate a historical and scientific framework
and to place the issue
onto a political tactical base. Apparently, the real reason of doing
so has always been political interests rather than adherence to the historical
and scholarly facts. It is
for this reason that Yezidism is being ignored and given no official
acknowledgment at the Treaty of Lausanne.
What is Yezidism?
According to the Kurdish language as well as many Mesopotamian cults,
the wordw Ezd, Ezda and Ezata imply "God". As far as Yezidi beliefs are
concerned, Ezid is
one of the 1001 divine names. This interpretation is clearly mentioned
in Yezidi verses such as:
"Sultan Ezid is the very King,
He has given himself 1001 names,
Yet the biggest name is Khweda [God]."
We should like to point out that there is no connection whatsoever between
the Yezidism and the historical person called Yezid, who was the son of
the Omeyyad caliph
Muaviyah. Sultan Ezid in the above-mentioned verse is God himself and
implies nobody else. The word Sultan is an Arabic word derived from Sult
(government, reign). As
it could be well observed, Sultan Ezid represents the one who holds
the divine power in the capacity of the ruler of the world. Another verse
"Sultan Ezid knows how much Water there is in the seas,
The world for him is only a step and an hour distance,
He made Eve the bride and Adam the groom."
Yezidism is an old and historical religion, born and developed in Mesopotamia.
In terms of history and culture, it represents a synthesis of Mithraism,
Zoroastiranism. Remarkably, the believers and supporters of Yezidism
are exclusively Kurds. It must be emphasised that all Yezidis are Kurds
and there are no Yezidi
from any other nationality. It maintains the existence of only one
God and prays for that God who is without companions. The Yezidis also
believe that God has created
seven angels who are active in the world affairs. These are: Ezrail,
Cibrail, Mikail, Dirdail, Simkail, Ezazil and Esrafil. Ezazil, who are
respected under the name of Tawusi
Melek, is the main out of them.
Who are the Yezidis?
Those who believe in one God, without any companion, and in seven angels
created by Him while adhering to the rules and regulations of Yezidism
called Yezidis. After massacres and mass killings only a small number
of the once numerous Yezidi population remains. According to unofficial
the number of the Yezidis in the world varies between 1,5 an 2 millions.
The decreased Yezidi population is moreover dispersed throughout the
world. At present, the Yezidis live in South (Iraqi) Kurdistan, North (Turkish)
Kurdistan, Southwest (Syrian Kurdistan) as well as in the ex-Soviet
states, mostly in the Caucasus (Armenia, Georgia) and in the Ukraine and
Federation. A large group of the Yezidis have migrated to the European
countries, primarily to Germany.
The origins of Yezidism
The early history of Yezidi religion is not very clear. The historians
and other scholars have studied old Mesopotamian beliefs and tried to establish
links between them
and Yezidism. They have however not succeeded to reach a satisfactory
conclusion. The main thing that is clear and definite is a high degree
of interrelation between
Yezidism, Mithraism and Zoroastrianism. Some of the researchers wrongly
take the movement led by Shaykh Adi as the starting point of Yezidism,
while forgetting that
Yezidism had already existed before Shaykh Adi. Although some formal
innovations were introduced by or rather in the period of Shayhk Adi, these
innovations do not
touch upon the basic principles of the religion. Thus, Shayhk Adi applied
some of Sufi elements to the existing principles of Yezidism. It is assumed
that in doing so, he
obtained the permission of the religious men (Pir) of the Shemsani
group, who had been ruling over the community from a time immemorial. Remarkably,
researchers argue that Yesidism is actually a Zoroastrian teaching
which has incorporated certain beliefs and cults from other systems such
(Shekh Adi = Shaykh Adi)
The main principles of Yezidism
The Yezidis believe in One and the only God, without companions.
God’s power cannot be reduced, neither can it be fragmented. Both Virtue
and Evil come from God.
There is no other powerful force above God. In other words, Ezazil
has never been a bad force on its own. Never has Ezazil been thrown out
from God’s courtiers. Never
was he symbolized as the bad principle. Ezazil is the head of the angels
and he was present during the creation of Adam and Eve. He always supported
of God and he has never bowed before any other force.
Sacred elements according to the Yezidis
In accordance with Yezidism the sun, fire, water, air and moon are the
most sacred elements. Furthermore, farming and cattle-breeding together
with being brave and
lavish were also considered good, or rather, sacred things. The Yezidis
also maintain that every man and woman from their community must posses
the three following
1. Rasti (truth). Every Yezidi should be truthful,
should protect himself/herself from lies. He/she should stand behind his/her
word and decision and always see the
truth, say the truth and defend the truth.
7. Nasin (knowledge). This implies to
being conscious. In other words, every Yezidi should know himself/herself,
his/her environment and should have a strongly and
positively motivated belief.
8. Shermi (shame). This means to stay
away from wrong-doing. A person who has the sense of shame and shyness,
will never do things to be later discredited. To
hold their head high and to remain clean are the feelings which are
of importance to the Yezidis.
The main religious obligations
Every Yezidi should have a Shaykh, a Pir (spiritual guide), a hosta,
a mentor and a brother/sister for the afterlife.
Every Yezidi should be properly dressed.
Yezidis pray three times a day facing the sun. Their prayer differ in
the morning, midday and evening. After they complete their prayer, they
kiss the soil.
The sacred triangle in Yezidism: Ezid, Tawusi Melek and Shaykh Adi
Ezid is one of the names of God. As far as Tawusi Melek is concerned,
he is the head of the angels and is identified with Ezazil. According to
belief, Shaykh Adi was a holy person who worked miracles. He carries
secrets from Tawusi Melek and God. Shaykh Adi and his nephew came from
village Beyt-Far in Lebanon and settled in Lalish. Some historians
stated that his father and grandfather came from Hakkari and were members
Hakkari’s Zoroastrians and would later migrate to Lebanon. The return
of Shaykh Adi and his nephew back to Mesopotamia and their settlement in
Lalish temple should therefore be considered as returning to old beliefs.
Since Shaykh Adi`s return to Lalish, he gathered the Yezidi’s around him
reincarnated Zoroastrianism and some of the old beliefs such as the
The attitude towards other religions
Yezidism maintains that every religion reflects a truth. Therefore everybody
should cater for their own religion and should be free to exercise their
beliefs. According to the Yezidis, a person who does not cater for
his/her own religion, will never cater for other religions. It is for this
reason that the
Yezidis do not accept anybody from other religions and have no missionary
intention. The Yezidis respect all religions and expect the same from the
Here we can observer that the philosophy of Yesidism is based on principles
of humanity, also expressed in verses such as:
"My God, give [Your Blessinhg] to seventy-two nations,
Give it to eighteen-thousand beings
And [then] to the Yezidis, too."
Yezidi Communal Structure
There are two main strata in the Yezidi community, known respectively
as "odd names" (yeknav) and "even names" (dunav).
The odd names, laymen (Mirids), constitute the majority of the people.
The even manes are subdivided into two categories: Pirs and Shaykhs.
Before the arrival of Shaykh Adi there were only Pirs and Mirids (laymen).
institution of the Shaykhs entered the Yezidi communal life during
Shaykh Adi’s period.
In general, the society is based on different (caste) groups and intermarriages
between these groups are not allowed. These are the (caste) groups:
Yezidi fasting and religious feasts
1. Charshema Sor (Charshema Sere Nisane) – The Red Wednesday or the
First Wednesday of April. It is celebrated as the New year and the Festival
2. Chile Havine – The Summer Forty. It lasts forty days.
3. Cimayi (Cejna Heciyan) – Gathering (The Feast of Pilgrimage). According
to the Oriental calendar, it lasts seven days between the 23rd of September
and the 1st of October.
4. Cejna Ezda – Divine (Ezda) Holiday. It is held on the first Friday
of December, according to the Oriental calendar. In advance, the Yezidis
fast for three
days and only then celebrate the Divine Holiday. Two weeks before Cejna
Ezda, three days of each week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) the
Yezidis fast, too. These fastings are followed by celebrations of Cejna
Xwedana (Patrons` Holiday) and Cejna Sheshims (Holiday of Sheshims).
5. Pir Ali. This Feast lasts seven days, too. It starts on Sunday and
ends on the following Sunday. On the basis of Oriental calendar, at least
one day has to
be from the first month, that is, January. This means that the feast
must enter the new year.
6. Xidir Elyas and Xidir Nebi. It is celebrated every year on the 1st
Thursday of February.
7. In addition, there are regional feasts.
Pilgrimages in South Kurdistan (Iraq)
The largest Yezidi Pilgrimage is the temple Lalisha Nurani. Lalish is
situated in South Kurdistan near Mosul. The other pilgrimages in South
· Qadib el-Benn
· Shaykh Brahim el-Xidim
· Shaykh Taqil
· Shaykh Kiraz
· Xatuna Fexra
· Shekhsine Shemsa
· Hindirisi Xeyat
· Boqeter Baba
· Pire Omarxala
· Bazide Bistami
· Shaykh Simayile Enzeli
· Pir Hamali
· Pire Kemali
· Pire Siba
· Pir Mendiqan
· Pire Hesilmaman
· Mehdera Bozan
· Melek Shekhsin
· Mere Qelendera
· Quba Nasirdin
· Quba Mehmed Reshan
· Kaf u Mexara Melke
· Quba Usive Qerrani
· Quba Shehide Pexember
· Quba Pir Eli
· Quba Shekhmus
· Quba Sidiye Nefis
· Shaykh Mihemede Xerib
· Xidir Ilyas and Xidir
· Hesene Ferdoz
· Omere Qamche
· Quba Nebi Nuh
· Quba Hekim Feris
and many other places.
Pilgrimages in North Kurdistan (Turkey)
· Helale Zewe
· Shaykh Evinda
· Xefure Reya
· Pir Dawid
· Pir Zikir
· Caf Teyar
· Shaykh Emere Mirada
· Shebil Qasim
· Shaykh Xeyib
· Shaykh Brahim
· Pir Mamendala
· Kechka Qedishke
· Shaykh Xale Shemsa
· Siware Bebana
and many other places.
Yezidism in Islamic Era
As early as in 636-641 AD, the Arabs started to attack the Mesopotamian
area in the name of Islam. With the occupation of the territory, there
took place massacres
and mass killings together with very harsh declarations (Firmans) announced
against the local people.
Consequently, the Arabs succeeded to enforce their religion, language
and cultural values by force. Despite the strong resistance shown by the
local population, the fear
of killings and humiliation was too strong to stop the advance of the
Arabs. Those who wanted to escape from this persecution, had no alternative
but to accept Islam and
the dominant position of the Arabs. Yet those who refused to bow before
them while rejecting Islam, had to flee to the mountains and continue to
survive while being cut
off from civilization. Nevertheless, these people succeeded to protect
their language, religion and their culture. Most of the Yezidis, too, escaped
to the mountains and
protected themselves from the terror of Arabs. But those Yezidis still
had to face a twofold troubles being persecuted because of their both religious
By remaining an original Kurdish religion, Yezidism represented the
roots of Kurdishness. Since Kurdishness was not in line with the pan-Islamic
ideology, the Yezidis
were subjected to very cruel treatment by the Arabs.
The Arabs were trying to assimilate the Kurds in the name of Islam.
The Kurdish culture and language were melting under the hegemony of Arabs.
Since the Yezidis
were protecting this language and culture, this was sufficient to annoy
the enemy and attract more killings and persecution. As if this were not
enough, the Arabs were
using those Kurds who had been converted to Islam to attack the Yezidi
Kurds. Afterwards, the Arabs would have it less complicated to commit mass
massacres against the very Muslim Kurds, whom they had previously used
against the Yezidis.
Against such a grave background, Shaykh Adi came to Lalish and started
to organize the Yezidis through dervish (Sufi) beliefs. Taking into consideration
conditions of the era, he managed to reform Yesidism. Such a reformation
activity paved a way for bringing Yezidism into the modernity.
Afterwards, the policy of persecution and ant-Yezidi campaign continued
during the Ottoman era. The only thing that was changed, was the name and
address of the
oppressor. The core of the persecution remained the same. The Arabs
were replaced by Turks but the nature of the Firmans remained the same.
The historians pass to us some examples of the Arab and Ottoman practices
Extracts from the book "A History of Kurdistan"
by Ethem Xemgin
The Yezidis are themselves Kurds, they are not a separate nation in
Kurdistan. Whatever explanation of Yezidi culture one might propose, the
basic religion of the Kurds
before the forceful Islamization of the Kurds had been Yezidism. The
Yezidis are essentially linked to Kurdishness and their prayers are exclusively
in Kurdish. In
addition, there are two sacred books of the Yedzidis written in Kurdish.
After Islam had been enforced upon the population of the region, those
trying to remain.
In line with their expansionist and oppressive actions, the Arabs, using
Islam to hide their real intentions, carried out massacres and looting
against those Kurds who
wished to protect their religious beliefs. From time to time the Muslim
Kurds were used by the imperialist powers to annihilate the Yezidis while
accusing them of being
non-believers. At other times, the colonial powers have used their
own armies to eliminate the Yezidis. The answer of the Yezidis was a strong
resistance, but because
of uneven power and unsuitable conditions, they had to leave their
fertile and culturally rich homeland for the mountains. This was the only
way for them to protect
During the period of the internal conflicts for power within the Muslims,
the Yezidis joined the forces of Merwan, whose mother was Kurdish. Later,
as a consequence of
the Abbasid victory, they would also be persecuted for having chosen
the wrong side, that is, the losers. If previously, the Yezidis could have
counted on their
neighbours, after the Islamization of the Kurds, they would be left
alone in their struggle.
It is a well established truth that the Yezidis have always been ready
to give abode to other victims of the Islamic rule. On the other hand,
they have often been the main
victims of fanatic forces: they were killed, their houses were burnt,
their wives and children were taken as hostages. In doing so, the local
Muslims intended to obtain
sympathy from the colonial states and to achieve economic and political
These are some documented facts of anti-Yezidi actions:
· In the 13th century,
the leader of the Yezidi Kurds was abducted in Mosul. Later he would be
executed, but his body would never be recovered. As a result of this
incident, a war started in the area which lasted for several years.
Due to uneven power, the Yezidis had to abandon their towns and temples
to escape to the mountains.
Their settlements were burned and eradicated to the ground and all
their belongings were looted.
· In the year 1414,
the Yezidis have suffered heavily in the wars against their Muslim neighbours.
They faced new massacres.
· During 1640-1641,
first the Yezidi villages near Mosul had been looted and then the Ottoman
Governor of Diyarbakir Ahmed Pasha attacked the Yezidis with
70,000-strong Ottoman forces. The Yezidis suffered great losses.
· In 1647/48, the hereditary
ruler of Sheykhan, Shaykh Mirza, revolted against the Ottomans in order
to capture Mosul. As a result of this revolt, the Ottoman governor
of Van, Shemsi Pasha, attacked with a large force under his command.
The Yezidi forces lost the battle with Sheykh Mirza being captured. Later
he would be hanged by
the governor of Van.
· In 1715, the Ottoman
governor of Baghdad, Hasan Pasha, attacked the Sincar (Shengal) area to
punish the Yezidi Kurds. This unexpected action forced the Yezidis
to move to the Khatuniya region. Hasan Pasha committed a large-scale
massacres in the area and handed the administration of this area to the
leader of the Bedouin
Arab Tayy tribe. This tribe would later be used against the Yezidis
in this region.
· In 1733/34, a number
of the Yezidi villages on the Zab river were destroyed and mass killings
were committed by the Ottoman Ahmed Pasha.
· In 1752/53, the Yezidis
in the Sincar area were attacked by the Ottoman Suleyman Pasha. The latter
continued his mass killings actions for two years which cost
the Yezidi Kurds many lives.
· In 1767/68, the Ottoman
governor of Mosul, Amin Pasha, sent his son with a strong army to loot
the Sincar area. He ordered Yezidis to give one thousand sheep.
When only eight hundred were given, the Ottoman forces attacked and
killed a large number of the Yezidis.
· In 1770/71, the revolt
of the Yezidi ruler of Sheykhan, Bedax Beg, against the Ottoman administration
was put down with massacres of the Yezidis.
· In 1773/74, the Ottoman
governor of Mosul attacked the Sincar area. The Yezidi-populated settlements
were looted and destroyed.
· In 1779, the Ottoman
governor of Mosul once more sent a military units to loot and destroy Sincar.
· In 1785/86, the Ottoman
governor of Mosul, Abd el-Baqi, attacked the Sincar area to punish the
Yezidi Kurds. However, the Muslim forces were defeated and they
lost many warriors. In the same period, Sincar was also attacked by
the Arab tribes.
· In 1786/87, the hereditary
Yezidi ruler (Mir) of Sheykhan, Cholo Beg, lost the battle with the Pasha
· In 1789/90, the Bedouin
Arab Tayy tribe took over the administration of the Sheykhan area and killed
Cholo Beg. Afterwards, a new battle took place and the Arab
tribe suffered great losses.
· During 1790-1792,
the Bedouin Arab Tayy tribe attacked the Sincar area. Ismail Pasha clashed
with Kancar Beg in Sheykhan and put him in prison. Later, Cholo
Beg’s son, Hasan Beg, was able to get back the administration of the
area. Nevertheless, the ruler of Amadiya caught and hanged him.
· In 1792/93, the Ottoman
governor of Mosul, Muhammad Pasha, burned eight Yezidi villages in the
· In 1793/94, the governor
of Mosul anew attacked the Mimkan sub-area of Sincar in order to punish
the Yezidis, but lost the battle.
· In 1794/95, the Ottomans
sent Sulayman Pasha to the Sincar area. The whole area was burned down
and destroyed. He looted the area, abducted 60 women and
stole 600 domestic animals.
· In 1799/1800, Abd
el-Aziz Beg from Baghdad with the support of the Tayy Bedouins led by Ubayd
Hamda destroyed 25 Yezidi villages in the Sheykhan area.
· In 1802/03, the governor
of Mosul, Ali Pasha, decided to take over the administration of the Sincar
area. Whereas his army attacked the Yezidis from the North, the
Arab Bedouins attacked them from the South. The fighting lasted for
months. As a result, several villages were destroyed and the forests were
burned down. Having lost
the war, the Yezidi Kurds accepted the Ottoman authority.
· In 1809/10, the Ottoman
governor of Baghdad, Sulayman Qatil, attacked the Sincar area. He looted
the settlements of Balad, Sincar, Mihirkan and some other
villages beyond the region killing many Yezidi Kurds.
· Yet, after 1832 the
Yezidi Kurds would be subjected to the most severe measures aimed at their
total destruction. Despite their heroic resistance, in 1832, the
hereditary Kurdish ruler (Mir) of Botan, Bedir-Khan Beg, captured Yezidi
settlements in Sheykhan, took the Yezidi leader Ali Beg a prisoner, tortured
and killed him. The
whole Yezidi-populated places in the Sheykhan area were looted and
burned down. The Muslim Kurds committed an unprecedented massacre of their
accusing them of being non-believers. Even those Yezidis of Sheykhan,
who tried to escape to Sincar, were followed by the Muslims. In order to
avoid capture, they
threw themselves into the raising waters of Tigris near Mosul. Those
unable to throw themselves or swim would be captured and in a cold-blood
manner killed by the
· In 1832/33, the hereditary
Kurdish ruler (Mir) of Rawanduz, Muhammad, attacked the Yezidi Kurds in
the Akra area. After committing mass killings of the Yezidis in
upper Zab area, he captured Akra. The Akra administrator, Ismail Pasha,
had to withdraw up to the Zikar Mountains. In 1833/34, after capturing
a part of Botan, Mir
Muhammad attacked and killed many of Sincar’s Yezidis.
· In 1838, the Ottoman
governor of Diyarbakir attacked the Yezidi Kurds of Sincar.
· In 1838, the Ottoman
governor of Mosul, Tayyar Pasha, attacked Djabal area in order to punish
the Yezidi Kurds, who avoided paying taxes to the Ottomans. In
order to asses the situation and hear the complaint of the locals unable
to pay such heavy taxes, Tayyar Pasha decided to visit the area. He was
accompanied by a
large Muslim army. When they arrived near Mihirkan he sent his mediators
to explain his intentions. His mediators had been killed and as a revenge
he then destroyed
the area. However, the Yezidi Kurds were able to escape to the caves
and from there ambush the Ottomans. After having suffered great losses,
Tayyar pasha left his
army and returned to Mosul. Thus, the Yezidis would be left alone until
1890. At that year, the Yezidi Kurds revolted against sending their young
men to the Ottoman
Having repeatedly attacked the Yezidis and having seen their resistance
against the military service, the Ottoman administration stopped recruiting
Unfortunately, this peaceful era did not last long.
· In 1892, the Ottomans
again started to oppress the Yezidi Kurds. Under the Muslim Ottoman army
headed by Omar Wahbi Pasha, the Yezidi Kurds had been
subjected to a new persecution. Omar Wahbi Pasha sent a message to
Yezidis in the Sheykhan area demanding that they either accept convertion
into Islam and pay
taxes or face destruction. The leader of the Yezidi Kurds refused the
demands. Consequently, Omar Wahbi Pasha, using a skillful propaganda, was
able to take the
Bedouin Arab tribes and the Muslim Kurds on his side against the Yezidis.
The Ottoman army entered the areas of Sincar and Sheykhan. Although this
is argued by
some historians, it appears that up to 14,000 Yezidi Kurds accepted
Islam to avoid massacre.
It is however established that after entering the Yezidi settlements,
Omar Wahbi Pasha and his allies committed mass killings. He looted Shaykh
Adi Pilgrimage in
Lalish and transferred all Yezidi sacred materials into Mosul. Then
he converted the Shaykh Adi Temple into an Islamic school and the latter
would be functioning in this
humiliating capacity for 12 years.
As a result of these crimes the Christian people and the ambassadors
protested to Ottoman State. In 1893, Omar Wahbi Pasha was recalled back
to the Ottoman
· During 1914-1918,
the Yezidi Kurds found the World War 1 as an opportunity to liberate them
from the terror of the Ottoman Muslims. It was the time that the
Armenians were experiencing massacres. The Yezidi Kurds opened their
arms and gave protection to their Armenian brothers. Thus they helped approximately
Armenians who were running away from killings. Despite the pressure
of the Ottoman authorities to hand over the Armenians, not a single Armenian
has been handed
back to them. Then, with the support of the Bedouin Arabs and the Muslim
Kurds, the Ottoman Army once more attacked Yezidi areas. The Yezidis lost
the battle due
to uneven fighting forces.
Extracts from the book "The Kurds of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th
Prof. Dr. Celile Celil
Both literary monuments and scholarly material dedicate a special place
to the Yezidi Kurds. Certainly, a number of specific features of a Kurdish
Yezidis attracted an interest of the researchers. The displayed elements
of Zoroastrianism, preserved old cults and were able to resist massacres
and other kinds of
pressure. The Yezidis were constantly surrounded by other religious
communities but did not adjust their dogmatic beliefs to the viewpoints
of the outsiders. Since the
biggest pressure came from Islam, the Yezidi tribal believers were
slowly becoming isolated from their Kurdish brethren who insisted on necessity
to Islamize them.
The centre of the Yezidi religion lies in the mountainous region of
Shengal (Sincar), north of Mosul. This area, for a long time being ruled
from Amed (Diyarbakir), borders
the province of Cizire in the North and the desert in the South. There
are four rivers in the mountains of Sincar, the main of them being Solak
(Shengal) in the South,
which is linked to the river of Belede Mezin. Since the mountains there
enabled the Yezidis to follow a fairly isolated way of life, they largely
escaped administrative and
cultural influence of the Ottoman state. Therefore, their spiritual
and political leaders could stay relatively independent.
A researcher Indjidjiyan, in the 19th century, described them in the
following way: "The Yezidis are very brave, but uneducated and foolish.
Their military force consists of
the horsemen equipped with tilts." According to Indjidjiyan, the number
of the Yezidis of Sincar reached 100,000 families which would well constituted
a million people
together with other Yezidi villagers in various parts of Turkey. The
Yezidi were said to follow a settled way of life, residing mostly in the
areas around the cities of
Amadiya, Zakho, Mosul, Bazid (Dogu Beyazit) and the district of Khoshab.
Their main occupation was cattle-breading and vegetables-growing. As we
see, in general,
they lived in north Kurdish districts.
During the rule of the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud the First, the governor
of Baghdad Suleyman Pasha led a 150,000-strong army trying to occupy Sincar.
He was however
unable to succeed due to the strong popular resistance and the support,
which the Yezidis of Sincar enjoyed from the Kurdish rulers of Amadiya.
The latter was a
marvelous and well-structured city with high and comfortable houses.
According to August Layard, the largeness of Amadiya together with its
marvelous ruins serve as
an evidence of its long history.
With regard to the Yezidi religious authorities, their location was
the following villages: Baadra, Bashik and Semil. Their religious leader,
Shaykh Nasir lived on the hill
around Baadra, east of the city of Duhok. Thus, in the 1830s, the religious
authority was concentrated around Shaykh Nasir, whereas Husayn Beg possessed
The centre of the district of Siirt is the city of Ridwan, on the left
side of the river Kherzan. The contemporary observers stated that until
the 19th century the Yezidis had
been playing a major role in political life of the region. Thus, according
to D. Taylor, the adherents of Yezidism constituted the majority of the
population there and they
were famous for their rebellious nature.
In another region, the district of Van, the Yezidis settled the area
around Abaga on the southern slopes of the Aladag mountains. They were
preoccupied with vegetables
growing in their gardens, but in order to protect themselves had built
several fortresses, namely: Dergezin, Kela Resh, Kela Spi, Kela Al and
Kushkeseyha. From the
19th century and onwords, the nomads living in their neighbourhood
slowly displaced the Yezidis.
The hostility between the Yezidis of Siirt and the Turkish authorities
go back to the Russian-Turkish war of 1828-1829. During the Caucasian campaign
of the Russian
troops led by General Paskevich, the Yezidi leader Shaykh Mirza proposed
a joint action to remove the Turks from the area.
The attacks against the Yezidis and Armenians of Siirt, organized by
Reshid Pasha and supported by some Muslim Kurdish tribes, were of no avail.
The great Armenian
enlightener Khachatur Abovyan positively evaluated the friendship between
the Yezidis and Armenians: "As was witnessed by an observer, the leader
of the Yezidis
Mirza Axa and the Armenian priest Pogos showed a great degree of heroism.
The attempts to destroy the Yezidis and make them Muslims have a long history.
why the wars between the Turkish army and them is especially ferocious.
The defeat of the leader Shaykh Mirza and his ally priest Pogos compelled
both the Yezidis
and Armenians to leave their home area and move to the Russian border.
In 1848, a publicist of the Russian newspaper "Kavkaz" dedicated an article
to those events,
which had taken place three years earlier".
Indeed, the Ottoman authorities destroyed some tribes, forced others
to migrate, left to the remaining Yezidis no choice but to adopt Islamic
religion. Using these
methods, they were able to eliminate the Yezidi power base in the area.
It must be stressed that the Ottomans tortured the Yezidi prisoners, assassinated
them in a
most unthinkable way and only a small part of them would later escape
to the Russian-dominated Armenia through Iran.
In 1856, a new big rebellion took place, exploding the whole area of
Northern Kurdistan. The Reshkotan tribsemen and the Yezidis of Dersim started
the revolt, followed
up by the Muslim Kurds of the provinces of Mush, Van and Erzurum. The
Russian general Muravyov informed his superiors that "in doing so, the
Kurds and Yezidis of the
porvince of Beyazit expected the arrival of the Russians".
Extracts from the book of the Armenian author Garo Sasuni
Although the Yezidis of Mosul, Siirt and Shengal (Sincar) displayed
a great degree of unity, they could not escape the Ottoman authority over
them. Previously, the
followers of Yezidism were more numerous and the whole Kurdish principality
of Cizire was Yezidi. Only later would they adopt Islam and become Sunnis.
As we see
from the events, the relationships between the Sunni and Yezidi Kurds
were gradually deteriorating and ended with bloody conflicts.
Ziraki or Zirik tribe came from Mardin and settled between Diyarbakir
and Mafagargin (districts of Kudikan and Tarchin).
The hereditary rulers, Begs of the principality Kilis originally came
from Djulamerg (Hakkari) and Diyarbakir. The established their rule over
Kilis and Antioch (Antakiya).
The Yezidis of the districts of Kuzer, Hamma and Marash were their
Dazini or Tazini tribesmen were adherents of Yezidi faith. They were
in war with the Kurds of Amadiya and Cizire as well as the Sorani Kurds.
The Ottoman Sultan Selim
the First delivered the control over Sorani-populated principality
of Arbil to the Yezidis which caused the long stand-off between these two
Kurdish groups. As a result, the
Yezidi ruler Hesen Beg would be later imprisoned, taken to Istanbul
and executed there.
"It is interesting that the Archbishop mentioned in his letter both
the Suryanis (Orthodox Assyrians) and Yezidis. It is another evidence that
although the Ottoman yoke
was enforced over various nationalities, only Suryanis and Yezidis
signed with them certain agreements. The Muslim Kurmandji Kurds, despite
principalities, signed with the Ottomans no agreements of this kind".
"Topal Osman Pasha was not satisfied with his successes and divided
his troops into two military units. The first went to Armenia and the second
invaded the important
regions of Kurdistan. He smashed the remaining Kurdish principalities,
sending their imprisoned rulers to Istanbul, from where they as a punishment
would be sent to
Aegean islands and Arabia. There were more killed and executed Kurds
than those who could migrate".
Exracts from the book about the Yezidis by the German researcher Johannes
There were only few evidence about the Yezidis prior to the 15th century.
The Yezidis share the same destiny as the Kurds who were squashed between
the Arab and
Persian Empires and the Turkish tribes. Most of the campaigns against
the Kurds in the region were more or less due to their religion. Since
the Kurds refused to give up
their religion, they were oppressed, attacked and killed.
The wars that the Muslim Arabs waged against the Kurds started in 630s
AD. In 637, the Arabs went into Kurdistan through Mosul, burning and destroying
Here is a chronology of the events accompanied with mass killings of
· In the year 906 AD,
the governor of Mosul, Hamadani, started his persecution of 5, 000 Kurdish
families who had revolted against Islam.
· In the year 980 AD,
the Muslim military units invaded Hakkari and attacked the Kurds who had
taken part in rebellion. First, the Kurdish forces were surrounded
from all directions and promised mercy if they surrender. However,
the Muslims did not keep their promise by crucifying the Yezidis along
the 25-kilometer-long road
between Mosul and Malatya. The whole area witnessed blood, tears and
unthinkable pain for days. Subsequently, the Muslim forces committed the
worst crimes against
humanity. Thousands of Kurds were massacred. These terrible mass killings
affected the resistance of the Kurds and compelled thousands of them to
· According to the
book "Fars-name", during the era of Islamization, precisely around 1107
AD, approximately 500, 000 Kurdish families were killed.
· The cruelty of the
Mongols reached its climax during the leadership of Hulagu Khan (1217 –
1265). Because of a strong resistance displayed by the Kurds who did
not surrender, as the Persians, all the captured Kurds were "driven
through swords". The Mongols destroyed Shehrizor (1245), Diyarbakir (1252)
and Baghdad (1258). A
huge number of the residents were killed.
· In 1254, the governor
(emir) of Mosul, Badr ad-Din Lulu, started a punishment campaign against
the Adawi Kurds, that is, the Yezidis who belonged to the order of
Shaykh Adi. "After a fierce battle, the Adawi Kurds were forced to
leave the area leaving behind the killed and arrested fellows. A hundred
of them were crucified and
about same amount of them were hanged by Lulu. He [Badr ad-Din Lulu]
also sent people to open the grave of Shaykh Adi to burn his remains."
· During 1761-1967,
the German–Dutch land-measure engineer Carsten Niebuhr visited the Yezidi-populated
area several times. In his travel book, Niebuhr recorded
how the Muslim majority had been oppressing the Yezidis. For instance,
he observed that: "the Muslims hate the Yezidis so much that, as one of
confirmed, killing a Yezidi is not a crime".
· In 1838, Hafiz Pasha
attacked the Yezidis in Sincar. After a long campaign, Hafiz Pasha accomplished
his intention to beat and control the Yezidis. The Prussian
General, Helmut von Moltke, who was training the Turkish soldiers against
the Kurdish freedom fighters (this German–Turkish co-operation is regrettably
existence) has written: "After the occupation, terrible things happened.
More or less all the male population were killed. Women and children were
taken away, all
together to be slaves, because they were Yezidis or devil worshipers";
"…they brought prisoners and spoils of war. There were wounded men and
women, babies and
children of all ages, heads and ears. They were paying from 50 to 100
Kurush (Ottoman money) per item as an award. The silenced and saddened
women and heart breaking situation. It was a terrible scene."
· In 1844, the ruler
of Botan, Bedir-Khan Bey, attacked to Yezidis in Tur Abidin. He used force
to convert them into Islam. Those who rejected Islam were arrested
and killed. Altogether seven villages surrendered and accepted to be
converted into Islam: "… The executioners suddenly appear like thunder
and under the cry of the
people they push the wooden pegs so hard that it came out from the
back of their Yezidi victims. The bodies had to lay on soft ground for
several days with pegs still
stack in them."
· During 1832-1846,
the Yezidi population suffered another wave of destruction. Already reduced
in numbers, another three forth of the Yezidis vanished.
"Although the Turkish state did not persecuted directly, it nonetheless
allowed the local authorities to oppress the Yezidis and turned a blind
eye on their destructive
actions. The state failed legally to protect the Yezidis. Those who
abducted the Yezidi women and girls, those who shaded the Yezidi blood
– all are gone without
punishment. The Yezidis had no protection against burglary, assaults
or humiliation. On the other hand, each time the Yezidis tried to retaliate,
they would be severely
punished by the authorities. Attending religious classes (where Islam
was taught) became compulsory for the Christian and Yezidi children, too.
Even in the place with
no Muslims, the mosques had been built. The strategy was to transfer
Muslim population into Yezidis villages in order to seed hate between these
two groups. The
wealthiest landlords were expecting that the Yezidis would abandon
their land and homes and they would take over their land and properties.
Therefore they too exerted
pressure on the Yezidis. The only people who left behind were elderly
Yezidis desiring to "die in peace on their own land".
Nowadays, only five thousand Yezidis remaine within the borders of Turkey’s
Kurdistan. It is only a matter of time that the last Yezidis will abandon
their homes and
Extracts from the Report entitled "The Mosul–Kerkuk problem" by the
League of Nations: Section "The Yezidis"
The nations involved have presented opposing views on the matter. According
to the English and Iraqi sources [the Yezidi population] varies between
21,000 and 30,000.
The Turkish authorities present their number as 18, 000. For several
reasons, [the League of Nations] decided to investigate the case. The needs
to carry out an
investigation are the following:
The devil worshipers, as they are known to many nations, have created
an interest to find more about them.
· The Yezidis are very
different fabric of the population in that region.
· The are a well-organized
· In the Northern valleys
of the region, they are the overwhelming majority of the settlers.
According to the British notes, the Yezidis are probably the Kurd and
they are not Muslims. In contrary, Islam is a sin for them. According to
British documents, an
ethnic map has been produced with Yezidis settlements shown on it.
The Yezidi area was shown in a separate colour than the areas of Kurds.
On the contrary, on the
map produced by Turkey, Yezidi and Kurdish areas where shown in the
We asked the representative of the British Government to explain the
reasons of this difference. The British explanation was not found satisfactory.
They say that they
are two different populations.
The Turkish Government argues that the Yezidis are openly from the Kurdish
race: they have the same traditions as the Kurds and they share the same
culture. The only
thing separating the Yezidis from the Kurds is their religion. According
to the Turkish argument, the Yezidi religion is a "new Muslim sect" and
to be a member of a
different sect does not warrant separating Yezidis from Kurds. The
Turkish Government argues that the difference between Yezidism and Islam
is the same as the
difference between the Catholics and Protestants.
The Yezidis themselves claim to have roots going back to centuries,
being older than any community in the world. According to their myths,
the Yezidis came from
Adam alone, while the rest of the world came from Adam and Eve.
Our comments concerning the arguments presented above
Neither information, given by Turkish and English Governments, reflects
the truth. Since the current population of the Yezidis is between 1,5 and
2 millions. It must be
said the their number had to be higher at the time when the League
of Nations report was produced. Since then, thousands of the Yezidis had
been killed or forced to
convert into Islam, which must have reduced their population ever since.
Similarly, claiming that the Yezidis came from Adam alone is not true,
because there are no
evidence to that effect in our tradition. The Yezidis believe that
they came from both Adam and Eve. As far as the argument that Yezidism
is an Islamic sect is
concerned, it is absolutely nonsense. Yezidism is not a sect, but a
sophisticated religious system of its own.
An Article by Ragip Zarakolu in a daily newspaper
"Ozgur Politika" (05.06.2001)
After Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, had presented his report
to the 55th General Assembly entitled "Puting an End to all Kinds of Religious
special report on Turkey was presented by Abdel Fateh Amor. Prior to
that, in December 2000, Abdel Fateh Amor had visited Turkey and his findings
were also included
into the speech of Kofi Annan.
One of the most important findings in this short but equally important
report was his assessment that Turkey did not meet his obligations under
the Treaty of Lausanne.
The special reporter Mr. Amor went to Turkey under the invitation of
the Turkish Government, after the UN General Council, in 1999, had taken
a decision to send a
special reporter. This is how the UN mechanism works.
According to Mr. Amor’s report the religious minorities in Turkey are:
- Armenians: between
50,000 and 93,000, or 65% of all non-Muslim religious minorities. They
have 51 churches, 17 cultural, welfare and health organizations. There
are 40,000 students and three-hundred teachers in 19 Armenian schools.
- 25,000 Jews
with 22,000 of them living in Istanbul. They have 18 open synagogues, 25
religious centers in Anatolia and 7,000 students in 3 schools. They own
hospitals and several trusts. They also publish a Newspaper.
- The position
of the Greeks is more dramatic: 73 churches, 19 schools, 65 trusts. Yet
their remaining population is 30,000. Only 297 students attend schools,
putting it in other words, 15 students for each school.
These three groups are under a special protection of the Treaty of Lausanne.
The position of other non-Muslim minorities, who are not mentioned in the
- 4,000 Arab Orthodox,
who use Greek schools and work in the Greek Orthodox churches. They are
actually maintaining these schools and it is them that they keep
- 17,000 Suryani
- 1,000 Chaldaean
- 600-800 Bulgarian
- 100 Levantine
According to this report, 99% of Turkey’s population is Muslim. Out
of this percentage 20% are Alavites. Just to remind you that even the name
of Yezidis is not
As we know, the Lausanne Peace Treaty is an international document setting
up the legitimate foundations of the Republic of Turkey. It has or rather
precedence over the Turkish Constitution. The clauses 37-45 of the
Treaty not only guarantee the religious freedoms of the three minorities,
but also guarantee the
language and religious beliefs of all citizens of the Republic. In
other words, thinking that the Treaty of Lausanne deals only with three
minorities is misleading. It is also
arguable, how much the religious rights since signing this Treaty 75
years ago, allowed to be freely exercised.
According to the clause 39 of this Treaty - well before the Copenhagen
Criteria’s - the Republic of Turkey is under the obligation to give all
its citizens freedom to use
mother tongue, media facilities (press) in their own language(s), right
to publish materials in their own language(s), freedom to use their own
language(s) in public
Clause 40 of the Treaty puts Turkey under obligation to give religious
freedom to the minorities.
Clause 42 stresses the importance of the cultural and organizational
freedom of these groups.
Despite the high feelings, raised by the Turkish officials about Lausanne,
it is ironic that it was Turkish Governments who have systematically violated
since it has been signed. It is also our duty to remind the states,
who put their signatures under this treaty, that they must stand with their
obligation and insist of the
implementation of the Treaty of Lausanne. The latter has not been fully
implemented in 75 years. What is worth even if the Government signs a "National
with their current mentality?
Our comments on the article
As was indicated by Mr. Zarakolu, the UN Report has not mentioned the
fate of the Yezidis, although it claims to be impartial in supporting all
the religious groups.
Unfortunately, the UN, under the impact of the Turkish policy, does
not view our ancient and sophisticated religion as worthy of attention.
Like the Arabs, the Turkish
officials refuse our religious, language and cultural rights. As if
that were not sufficient, they destroy our holy places and religious centers.
We wonder if a comment is
needed, while in the 21st century a 2 million-strong religious group
is being ignored!
The Kurdish Yezidi Community within the context of the Relations between
Turkey and the European Union
Recently, Turkey presented its National Programme to the European Union.
Despite its obvious shortcomings, it might put certain obligations on Turkey.
With respect to
our subject, Art 1.2 (Part II) states: "The basic freedoms must be
recognized without differences in language, sex, race, philosophical and
The medium-term policy concerning religious issue is described in the
following way: "… steps will be taken to allow and facilitate practicing
religion for those who are
living in our country but are not Turkish Citizens as well as for non-Muslims".
We intend to discuss how these views are compatible to the situation
with the Yezidis.
The above-mentioned Report of the League of Nations on the subject of
Mosul-Kerkuk Problem, prepared by a special commission which was set up
on 30.9.1924 says:
"The Turkish Government argues that the Yezidis are openly from the
Kurdish race: they have the same traditions as the Kurds and they share
the same culture. The
only thing separating the Yezidis from the Kurds is their religion.
According to the Turkish argument, the Yezidi religion is a "new Muslim
sect" and to be a member of a
different sect does not warrant separating Yezidis from Kurds. The
Turkish Government argues that the difference between Yezidism and Islam
is the same as the
difference between the Catholics and Protestants".
The real intention is to deny the religious rights by considering Yezidism
as part of Islam, that is, to refuse the existence of the Yezidis. Yezidism
has not been accepted
as a distinct religious system which constitutes a violation of the
International Law. As a result, nowadays when the Yezidis are granted a
Turkish ID, the authorities
either put "atheist", or an "X" sign under the column "religion." However,
in most cases they enter the word "Islam". Certainly, this is a vivid example
of the denial policy
of Turkey. On the other hand, with the assistance of the state, the
reactionary forces who are in fact the enemies of the Kurdish people are
still continuing to oppress and
kill the Yezidis.
The Turkish state has inherited the reactionary practices of Ottomans.
The conqueror’s mentality paves a way for attacking and destroying villages
belonging to the Yezidi community. As a matter of fact, during 1900
and 1936, this community experienced mass killings and force migrations
(or rather expulsion).
After the establishment of the Turkish Republic, thousands of Yezidis
were killed in the historical regions: Serhad (namely Agri, Van, Kars and
Mus), Botan (namely
Cudi, Silopi, Uludere and Sirnak) as well as in Siirt, Urfa, Antep
and Mardin. Especially during the Armenian genocide, the Yezidis were also
targeted and killed by the
gangs controlled by Turkish State. Those who escaped from massacres,
migrated into Armenia and Georgia. Thousands of them went to shelter into
Kurdistan and Syria. Killings and forced expulsions continued in the
following years, too. The Yezidi villages were burnt down and destroyed
with women being abducted,
personal belongings being confiscated and people being subjected to
inhumane treatments. As a result of this policy, the heads of the village
guards in partnership with
the state occupied the Yezidi villages.
With the start of the Kurdish liberation struggle, the crimes and oppression
were on increase. The Yezidis, too, were harassed: they were branded as
humiliated with pejorative names and descriptions. One can produce
many examples of such a policy.
Thus, in 1988 Dervis Sevgat in Viransehir and in 1995 Ali Agirman in
Midyad were tortured and killed. The head of the village guards confiscated
the property of Ali
Agirman in Midyad. Because of such oppressive measures, the majority
of the Yezidis are forced to immigrate leaving their villages deserted.
It appears that the state
policy is to separate them from Kurdistan and to assimilate them in
European exile. That would be a tragedy for the Kurdish nation because,
culturally speaking, no other
community could replace them Kurdistan. Even the Yezidi prayers to
God are in Kurdish.
Obviously, the problem lies not in the Turkish State’s anti-religious
behavior, but in its chauvinistic intention to destroy Kurdishness under
the pretext of religious
opposition. The Turkish State is aware that Yezidism symbolizes thousands
of years of Kurdish culture and traditions and therefore makes it the target
of annihilation for
the Turco-Islamic reactionaries.
Whereas the Lausanne Treaty makes a legally binding guarantee to non-Muslim
communities and their rights to teach their religion in mother tongue.
According to the
provisions of the Treaty, non-Muslim minorities are entitled to form
their organizations and to carry out other activities aimed at the development
of their communities.
However and unfortunately, the Treaty deals chiefly with the Christians
in Turkey, while the Yezidis follow a strictly Kurdish religion. Therefore
by accepting the religion,
culture and language of the Yezidis contradicts the official policy
of denial of Kurdish rights. By definition, accepting the Yezidi religion
would mean to legalize Kurdish
As is clear from the National Programme of the Turkish State, even foreign
nationals are entitled to practice their religions, but there is no legal
and political framework
set up for the Yezidis or Yezidism. Under these conditions, we demand
that, under the auspices of the European Union, the Yezidi sacred places
and temples must be
put under the United Nations’ protection. We also demand that the same
level of freedoms must be given to the Yezidis to worship and repair their
religious centers, as it
has been granted to "the other religions". We also demand that those
powers which are responsible for the division of Kurdistan or which are
in partnership with the
oppressive regimes in our homeland (such as United Kingdom, France
and Germany) and the militarist states occupying Kurdistan (Turkey, Iraq,
Iran and Syria) to hand
over Yezidi historical and religious materials from the museums and
libraries to an International Commission. The latter must have the full
authority to deal with the issue.
We also call upon Kurdish and International lawyers to show their support
The Yezidi Kurds in the former USSR by Dr. Zorab
Since the Middle Ages, the Kurds – both Muslim and Yezidi - were present
in the Caucasian region. Few Yezidi Kurdish tribes appeared in Transcaucasia
in the 18th century. In 1770s, the Georgian King Irakli II made a try
to establish contacts with the Yezidis and used the Assyrian Archbishop
Isaya as a
mediator. Irakli II sent via Isaya a letter to the Yezidi leader Choban-Agha
in which he proposed a non-Muslim coalition of the Yezidis, Armenians and
Assyrians against the Ottoman Sultan.
A larger group of Yezidi migration to Transcaucasia took place during
and after the Crimean War (1853-1856) and the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-1878.
During the second half of the 19th century, the Yezidi Kurds lived
in the following villages of Armenia: Mirek, Kurabogaz, Djardjaris, Chobanmaz,
Pamb, Big and Small Djamushlu and Korubulagh. The population of those
villages mostly came from the Ottoman Empire between 1830 and 1877. It
known that in 1875, the two Yezidi villages – Baysiz and Sichalu –
had 41 families.
However, the majority of the modern Yezidi Kurds settled in Armenia
and Georgia in the beginning of the 20th century as a result of religious
persecutions from the
Ottoman authorities and local pan-Islamic forces. These Yezidis came
from districts of Van, Bayazid, Kars and Surmalu. Since the Yezidi Kurds
were a rural population,
they mostly settled in abandoned and deserted villages in Armenia,
although in Georgia they found refuge in cities – first in Tbilisi and
later also in Telavi and Rustavi. The
migrants from one village normally would settle in a new village together,
while in cities the members of one patronimy or congener group would reside
on one street.
According to the latest Soviet data, in Georgia and Armenia there lived
more than 90,000 Yezidis.
As is widely known, the only holy place of the Yezidis is Lalish in
Iraqi Kurdistan. Since the Caucasian Yezidis were cut off from their historical
holy land, they performed
their religious duties in the houses of their spiritual leaders from
the Shaykhs, who, in turn, were visiting their laymen (Mirids) during religious
holidays. Not surprisingly,
the Yezidi life and habits have experienced a certain Christian (Armenian
and Georgian) influence: for instance, the Yezidis started to visit Churches
and to light candles
before the icons of Virgin Mary.
It may be said that during the Soviet period of the Georgian and Armenian
history, that is, 1921-1991, the ninety-thousand-strong Yezidi community
enjoyed a relatively
prosperous and culturally rich life. Whereas the Muslim Kurds from
the Soviet-Turkish borderland would been displaced by the Stalin`s regime
to the Central Asia and
Siberia, the Yezidis were entitled to stay on and share the every-day
life with the Georgian and Armenian peoples as well as with other minority
groups including Azeris,
Russians, Ukrainians, Greeks, Ossetes, Jews, Abkhazians, Assyrians,
Tatars and Germans. Moreover, sometimes the Yezidis and other minority
subjected to the positive discrimination aimed at promoting their education
and political activity. Certainly, the famous Caucasian hospitality and
the Soviet ideological
premises of internationalism contributed to such a development.
Everything has dramatically changed after the collapse of the USSR.
While the title ethnic groups in the former republics (re-)established
their sovereignty and started to
promote nation-state oriented economy and politics, the minority groups
felt vulnerable against nationalistic propaganda and in many cases civil
Thus, there broke up major armed conflicts in Georgia and Armenia. The
battles in Georgia included those in the autonomous regions of Southern
Ossetia and Abkhazia
as well as between the supporters and opponents of the former President
Zviad Gamsakhurdia. The conflict around Nagorno-Karbakh, an Armenian enclave
borders of Azerbaijan, directly affected Armenia as well. In such a
situation, many people left both Georgia and Armenia for a more safe places:
the Jews for Israel, the
Germans for Germany, the Greeks for Greece, the Azeris, Armenians,
Russian and Ukrainians respectively for their republics. Even the groups
states could find a relatively peaceful acceptance by their ethnic
brethren (South Ossetians in the Russian North Ossetia) or nations with
the same religious adherence
(Muslims in the North Caucasus and Azerbaijan). Some 20, 000 Muslim
Kurds from Armenia were somehow accepted in Azerbaijan and Central Asia
due to the religious
and cultural proximity.
Therefore, the Yezidis became the only group without a place to go.
The well-documented anti-Caucasian actions of the Russian authorities (for
adopted by the Moscow mayor Luzhkov) and the rise of the Russian nationalism
aggravated by the Chechen war deprived the Yezidis from the only place
could theoretically have been accommodated. Their ethnic brethren,
the Kurds, are themselves stateless and persecuted, no other state in the
world is interested in
helping them either.
One must point it out that the official authorities in Georgia led by
Mr. Shevardnadze and in Armenia led first by Dr. Ter-Petrossian and now
by Mr. Kocharian were
democratically elected and they have been trying to coup with the economic
crisis and political uncertainties. However, the poverty and criminalisation
administrators causes pains to the ordinary citizens, and as it has
always been in history, first of all to the defenceless minority population.
While unable to overcome
daily difficulties, the Yezidis sell their last belongings and pay
to smugglers in the hope that the European public opinion would understand
their asylum requests.
Their religious rituals and taboos (such as marriage prohibitions) could
not be exercised in their homeland because of the minimal number of the
people left and the
impossibility to visit their historical homeland in Iraq. Since the
best-organised Yezidi groups live in Germany, this country is the last
chance for them to survive as a
thousand-years-old community. The overwhelming majority of the Georgian
and Armenian Yezidis are well educated, they have decades-old experiences
into Christian societies and share no extremist claims that would make
them unwelcome in the West.
Examples of Treatment of Yezidis by the Republic of Turkey –
1. In 1973, the Turkish soldiers attacked two villages in the province
of Merdin: Mezre and Xanik. The residents of the villages were beaten up
and shot with the guns. As
a result, Huseyin Aba was killed and some other residents - Sabri Yusun,
Dervis Sis, Eziz Yalak, Nayif Korkmaz and Himedi Korkmaz - were seriously
2. In 1940, the village of Kiwex, in the district
of Hezex, province of Merdin, was attacked by the Turkish soldiers. 29
residents including women, children and elderly
people were forced to enter into a cave. They were all burnt alive.
3. Again in the same year, the village of Kiwex
was again attacked by the Turkish soldiers. Cindo Huseyin, Hawike and Shaykh
Omer Huseyin Huti were killed.
4. Before long, the same village, Kiwex, was
anew attacked by the soldiers. Xelef Qewto and Teter Hinis Ibrahim Miste
5. In 1993, the soldiers attacked the village
of Denvan in the province of Midyad. Yusif Cakar was killed during the
6. The residents of the village of Xirabiya
(Yenice), in the province of Midyad, while travelling in a minibus, were
attacked by the soldiers and state-organized
paramilitaries. Xelil Debe and Nure Kaya were killed and four members
of the same family were seriously wounded.
7. In 1993, state-organized paramilitary forces
attacked the village of Mezre in the province of Nusaybin. The resident
named Resit Yildiz was abducted and his
whereabouts are not known.
8. State-organized paramilitary forces attacked the
village of Denwan, in the province of Midyad. Siloye Mala Semdin and Xelil
Kurt were killed. One woman was
9. In 1978, the soldiers and paramilitaries
attacked the village of Kocan. Two young men - Hayat Gunay and Nizamettin
Gunay - were killed only because they had
10. On the 26th of August, 1995, the village of Bacin, in the
province of Midyad, was attacked by the soldiers and paramilitaries. As
a result, Ali Agirman and his son
Nezedin Agirman were killed and Makso Agirman was seriously wounded.
11. On the 17th of March, 1952, the soldiers and paramilitaries murdered
Ibrahim Aslan from the village of Asince, in the province of Diyarbakir.
Later, on the 21st of June,
1964, the same forces killed the resident of the same village Ahmed
12. In 1976, Emin Balik from the village of Haydar-Qule, in the
province of Diyarbakir, was murdered. In the same year, Ibrahim Okce and
Huseyin Guden were murdered
in the neighbouring village of Dorequle.
13. In 1981, Serif Akkus from the village of Asince, in the province
of Diyarbakir, was murdered.
14. In 1956, Rizgo Kesen from the village of Geduke, in the district
of Besiri of the province of Batman, was murdered.
15. In 1972, in the same district of Besiri of the province of
Batman, the resident of the village of Hemduna named Rizgo Keser was murdered.
16. In the village of Feqira, district of Besiri, province of Batman,
was murdered. The resident of the same village, Hiseyin Pamukcu, was murdered
in the city of Batman
by the state-organized paramilitary forces.
17. In 1989, in the village of Texeriye, district of Besiri, province
of Batman, Mustafa Bulut was murdered.
18. In 1995, two brothers Cemal and Yasar Goksel from the village
of Giresirt, in the province of Viransehir, were murdered by the paramilitaries
because of their
belonging to the Yezidi community.
The list of abducted Yezidi women and girls:
1. A young woman called Gulan from the village of Kemina.
2. A married woman, Heyafa Dik, from the village of Xanika Shexa.
3. A married woman, Sewqiya, from the village of Taqa. Despite her family’s
repeated demands she was not handed back. In 1978, during an incident connected
matter, two Yezidi brothers Hayat and Nizamettin Gunay were murdered.
4. A young girl named Adla Agirman from the village of Bacin.
5. Two young girls from the village of Feqira.
6. Two young sisters from a Shaykh family in the village of Dusa, one
of them being a married woman. This abduction took place in 1974.
7. In 1973, a Turkish school-teacher, who was working in the village
of Hemduna, abducted a Yezidi woman named Hezar Yarsan. The residents of
the village protested
and took her back. Afterwards, the Turkish authorities surrounded the
village and forbade entering and leaving it for three months. Despite unwillingness
of her family,
Hezar Yarsan would be later again delivered to the Turkish teacher.
In addition to all these facts of killings and abduction, a more tragic
trend must be mentioned. Because of impossibility to stand the state oppression,
thousands of the
Yezidis from Nusaybin and Midyat had no alternative but to immigrate
to South Kurdistan. Those were the former residents of the villages of
Hevera, Kiwex, Evse and
Geliye Sora together with the members of the Dasini Yezidi community.
These people had to abandon their villages and properties in order to save
their lives. Thus, the
Turkish policy against the Yezidis led to the consequence that today
tens of their villages are taken over by the Muslims.
The list of Yezidi villages and settlements that are taken over by Muslims
as a result of the state policy:
The list of villages and settlements that, although remaining Yezidi,
were given new, Turkish, names instead of their original ones
Kiwex (Turkish name: Magara Koyu)
Kevnas (Turkish name: Cayirli Koyu)
Taqa (Turkish name: Oyuklu)
Mezre (Turkish name: Cilesiz)
Xanika Shexa (Turkish name: Magaracik)
Evshe (Turkish name: Kaleli)
Kunar (Turkish name: Arpacik)
Fisqine (Turkish name: Kayadibi)
Geliye Sora (Turkish name: Guneli)
Qulika (Turkish name: Degirmencik)
Birguriya (Turkish name: Beleban)
Qorix (Turkish name: Ugurca)
Eynap (Turkish name: Inpinar)
Kelhok (Turkish name: Kuscukur)
Texeri (Turkish name: Ugrak)
Dusha (Turkish name: Kumgecit)
Simze (Turkish name: Oguz)
Cinerya (Turkish name: Yolveren)
Geduk (Turkish name: Deveboyu)
Zewra (Turkish name: Isikli)
Minminik (Turkish name: Ucgul)
Isxane Bichuk (Turkish name: Kucuk Altinbasak)
Qori (Turkish name: Dirgen)
Gele Naso (Turkish name: Dinckor)
Xirbe Belek (Turkish name: Guven Koyu)
For centuries, the Turkish, Arab and Persian power centers have been
ruling over Kurdistan and carrying out a policy of annihilation against
the Yezidis. As unfortunate
as it can be, their oppression is being hallowed by international treaties.
We believe that both red and white types of genocide accompanied by unbearable
tragic events must be put to an end. Therefore, we appeal to the international
community and all those, who claim to care about global justice and human
rights, to pay
attention to our plight and support us.
1. Yezidism must be legally recognized as a separate religious system,
not as an Islamic sect.
2. All the legal acts regulating religious life of other communities
must apply to the Yezidis as soon as possible.
3. Lalish and other religious cites of the Yezidis must be restored
and put under solid protection.
4. The land and property of the Yezidis taken away by the paramilitary
or/and state forces must be returned.
5. Those Yezidis who want to go back to their original settlements must
be allowed to do so and provided material support.
6. All religious, cultural and ethnic rights must be guaranteed to the
Yezidis living in the post-Soviet and European states.
7. The policy of the states dividing Kurdistan aimed at destroying Yezidism
and the Yezidis must be stopped.
9. The rights to educated the Yezidis
in accordance with their religion and in their mother tongue – Kurdish
– must be unconditionally recognized.
10. The identity cards of the Yezidis must contain
no signs such as "non-believers" and "X".
11. Since all our religious ceremonies and prayers are in Kurdish, this
language shall no longer be forbidden by any state