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Who are Yazidi's

The Shingalis, the Yezidis from Sinjar are a tough people. Originally they lived as shepherds on the plains around Nineveh and Mount Sinjar. They are part of one of the oldest ethnic minorities found in northern Iraq, southeastern Turkey, northern Syria, the Caucasus and parts of Iran. The majority, however, lived on the Nineveh plain near Mosul. They lived there until the invasion of IS in August 2014.

Since their flight they live in Kurdistan (Autonomic region in northern Iraq). More than 300,000 Yazidi refugees live in large camps in the region around Duhok. However, the camps are overcrowded and many displaced people live in makeshift tents and unfinished buildings in adjacent areas and villages outside the camps. Around 60,000 refugee Yazidis live in the Sharia area where the children’s center is located, which is near Dohuk.

For the time being, the situation in Sinjar is not safe and stable. As a result, after years of surviving in a tent camp, the Shingalis still cannot go home. The children now grow up in tent camps and only know their birthplace from their parents’ stories.

The teenagers and young adults, on the other hand, consciously experienced the flight. They are incredibly resilient. Almost all of them throw themselves into school and studies as if their lives depended on it. They don’t want to stay in the situation of survival, but want to progress in their lives and broaden their horizons.

The young adults are also very motivated to move up in life. But once they have managed to complete a study (often with debts) it is difficult to find a job. There is a lot of corruption and often Yazidis do not have the same opportunities to get a job in the predominantly Islamic region. Unemployment is high and the economy in the community often depends on outside help, be it government benefits, organization help and money sent by relatives from abroad.


In August 2014, ISIS terrorists launched coordinated attacks against the population of several cities in the Nineveh and Duhok provinces of northern Iraq. During the attacks, thousands of Yazidis fled for their lives to Mount Sinjar or to safe areas of Duhok province. In addition to Yazidis, Iraqi Christians, Turkmen, Shabaks and other groups have also been attacked.

During the attack on Sinjar, about 40,000 people initially fled to Mount Sinjar, surrounded by terrorists. They had no food, water or shelter to sustain themselves in the merciless summer heat. Many people died, including newborn babies, children and the elderly due to dehydration and overheating.


Those who could not flee their homes in time have been killed or kidnapped. Men were separated from women and children. Men were forced to convert to Islam, though many of them were executed anyway. Women and girls were held captive and sold as sex slaves. Boys were forced to convert to Islam and trained as jihadists or suicide bombers. Of the more than six thousand women and children, more than three thousand have returned. However, these women and children have undergone the most unimaginable forms of abuse and torture and are understandably traumatized as a result. Many have committed or attempted suicide. Executed Yazidi victims have been found in mass graves in several cities, but many remain missing.

What do Yazidis believe

The Yazidi culture is structured according to social classes similar to the Hindu caste system. At the top is the Mir (political leader) and Baba Sheikh (spiritual leader). Their religion has been perpetuated by traditions in the form of hymns, stories and poetry rather than writings. The original language of the Yazidis is Kurmanji Kurdish. But many also speak Arabic as a result of the Arabs under Saddam’s rule. Yazidis feel strongly connected to their country and geographical location, especially their temple in Lalesh. They believe that is where creation began after the “great flood.”

Yezidism is a monotheistic religion and is over 4000 years old. They have many rituals and because their beliefs are syncretic (mix with other religions) their celebrations often overlap with other religions. The name Yazidi may come from the Persian ized (angel, deity) or yazada (divine being). In Kurdish, the word Yazdan translates into God, where Yazidi means ‘worshiper of God’.

Yazidis believe in one God. The most important and central figure in the Yezidi tradition is Tawusi Malak (the Peacock Angel). Tawusi Malak embodies both light and darkness. According to the Yezidi belief, everything in the universe has its counterpart: the sun and the moon, day and night, etc. Yazidis also believe in the primary importance of the sun. Lighting oil lamps during religious holidays testifies to the worship of light.

During the 11th and 12th centuries, the community was exposed to the teachings and organizational reforms of Sheikh Adi, a Sufi mystic who established a system of clergy and laity. Since that time, the religion has become more isolated to outsiders and conversions are not allowed. Because of the mix of different belief systems and misunderstanding of Yazidi theology, Yazidis have often been branded as heretics, apostates or falsely “devil worshipers” and have been persecuted.


Yezidi’s geloven dat hun gemeenschap minstens 72 pogingen tot vernietiging en genocides heeft ondergaan. Het slachtoffer zijn van vervolging en genocide is een belangrijk onderdeel van de gedeelde Yezidi-identiteit en het verhaal van de gemeenschap. Ook Saddam regime spaarde de Yezidi’s niet. Hij voerde een beleid om de Yezidi’s uit de dorpen te verdrijven en naar nieuw gebouwde collectieve steden zoals Shingal te verhuizen, waardoor de traditioneel pastorale manier van leven ernstig werd verstoord.

After the US-led coalition overthrew Saddam in 2003, sectarian violence quickly escalated, with fundamentalist attacks targeting all minority communities. Yazidi villages, shrines and holidays were all repeatedly targeted. One of the worst attacks occurred on August 14, 2007, when terrorists carried out a devastating and coordinated attack that detonated four truck bombs simultaneously in the villages surrounding Tel Azer. It is estimated that more than 500 people lost their lives in the attack and another 1,500 were injured. While no perpetrators have been arrested or charged, it is believed al-Qaeda in Iraq was behind the bombing.

When IS captured the city of Mosul on June 10, 2014, they gave other religious minorities such as Christians three options: (1) accept dhimmi status and pay the jizya (a special tax), (2) convert to Islam, or ( 3) facing death. However, Yazidis were denied the “privilege” of dhimmi status, leaving only the last two options. IS advanced into the Shingal area and the Iraqi army and the Peshamarga retreated from Shingal, costing thousands of lives and widespread destruction. Yazidis in the Shingal area were subjected to mass killings, forced conversions, abduction of young children and the sexual enslavement of thousands of women and girls. This violence caused a massive wave of refugees in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and Syria.

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