"The Yazidis experienced the departure of the peshmerga as a betrayal"

The anthropologist returns to the religious and social aspects of this minority of Iraq, persecuted by jihadists, whose children born of sexual slavery are rejected by their own community. For Kurdish power, the Yazidis are also a political issue.

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Juliette Duclos-Valois is an anthropologist. PhD student at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, she has since 2013 conducted regular surveys in northern Iraq. She is currently working on the migration and everyday life of people, especially the Yazidis, who are struggling with the Iraq conflict.

The Yezidi minority, one of the oldest in the world, is poorly known. How to define it?

The idea of ​​"older" must be put into perspective, because it is a shortcut to talk about the survival of Zoroastrianism (Ist millennium BC), with which Yazidism has similarities without being a derivative. The Yazidis are numerous to claim these origins, that is to say a pre-Islamic religion common to the Kurdish people, but the majority of researchers agree to date the appearance of Yazidism in the XIIe century.

Rooba, 28, illiterate. Origianire of Kojo, Sinjar region. Date of capture: 15/08/2014. Duration of captivity: 10 months. Seivan M. Salim / DARST

The Yazidis practice a syncretic monotheism. Their religion is transmitted mainly through poems, songs (qewl), sermons (mishabet) or stories (cirok) – why Islam does not recognize them as "people of the Book" (unlike Jews and Christians), despite the existence of at least two corpora of texts: the Mechef Rech ("Black Book") and the Jilwe ("Revelations"). The Yazidis believe in a God who created the universe through the work of seven angels whom they worship and whose most important, Taous Melek, is represented by a peacock. They respect prohibitions (food, marriages outside their community but also intercastes, or the one, fallen into disuse, to dress in blue) and rituals mostly related to the earth.

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Each village "belongs" to a sacred place, with one or more temples, the best known of which are those of Mehderi, close to the village of Bozan, and that of Charaf-Al-Din on Mount Sinjar. Others are common to all, such as the temples of the Lalesh Valley in Cheikhan District, dedicated to the 365 Yazidi saints. It is a society organized into castes: that of the sheikhs then of the pirs, superior castes endowed with religious prerogatives, and the immense majority of the mulrids which do not have a religious role.

Jihan, 20, illiterate, from Otherwise, Sinjar region. Date of capture: 04/08/2014. Duration of captivity: 10 months.
Jihan, 20, illiterate, from Otherwise, Sinjar region. Date of capture: 04/08/2014. Duration of captivity: 10 months. Seivan M. Salim / DARST

If the Yazidis are often perceived as a simple entity, defined by religion, and as a community welded and folded on itself, it is partly due to the work that was devoted to them in the nineteenth century.e and XXe centuries. Travelers, journalists, and researchers then sought to transcribe a coherent belief system, ignoring the historical, political, and socio-economic context in which they evolved. More recently, researchers have shown that Yezidi solidarity is linked to several spheres: that of the family, the clan, the tribe, the extended ethnic community and political parties. Of course, the current conflict strengthens identity assignments.


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