[ by Charles Cameron — continuing on from Yezidis / Yazidis: first gleanings with a diverse set of data points ]
Here, to get us started, is some Yezidi music which I downloaded to give myself an insight into the heart of the Yezidi and our common humanity: music as touchstone.
To recap my previous post on the Yezidi / Yazidi:
The Yezidi / Yazidi are a theologically fascinating group, and it’s a pity that their Peacock Angel has been misinterpreted by Muslims and others on many occasions as equivalent to the Islamic Iblis / Christian Devil. Like Iblis / Devil, the Peackock Angel Melek Taus is ordered by God to bow down to Man / Adam, and refuses to do so — but here’s where the narratives divide. In the Yezidi telling, Melek Taus had been forewarned by God *not* to bow down to Man, since Man was a creature and not God (defined as the proper object of worship). So in the Yezidi view, the Peacock Angel was obedient, not disobedient, good, not bad — but because Muslims when they hear the story conflate Melek Taus with Iblis, they consider the Yezidi to be worshipping the Devil — and thus fair game for numerous rounds of persecution across the centuries, with the current caliphal phase being the worst and arguably likely to be the last.
The various conspiracies, fictions & hermetic adaptations of Yezidi religious thought (in Gurdjieff, Crowley, Gnostic/Templar circles, HP Lovecraft and his source, E. Hoffmann Price‘s The Stranger from Kurdistan) spring from the same misunderstanding of the role of Melek Taus. In their own rights they are interesting, but as revelations about Yezidi thought, not so much.
Matthew Barber of the University of Chicago, whose twitter stream I recommended in my earlier post, has been blogging from the ground in Iraq on Landis’s Syria Comment blog — recommended.
Here’s an interesting interview on the History and Genocide of the Yezidis, which points out among other things just how difficult it is to get an accurate picture of Yezidi thought:
Pat Lang, blogging at Sic Semper Tyrannis, comes at the issue of US military asistance with both an appreciation of local culture and a keen sense of military feasibilities:
Another awkward truth is the fact that getting the tens of thousands of Yazidis down off their mountain will require creation of a land bridge to Kurdish Syria or Turkey. (It is just too far to expect too be able to move all those civilians to the Kurdish mountsins in the east.) To build such a land bridge would require the participation of thousands of soldiers with heavy equipment, functioning logistics and lots of air support. Who would provide that, the pesh merga? Not! They lack the men, the equipment and the air support.
US air is still flying off an aircraft carrier in the Gulf. This is very far away and the distance, in itself, lmits the amount of air power that can be projected. It limits it a lot! If the administration is serious about the Yazidis or the Kurds they will have to start operating from Batman and Incirlik in Turkey as well as Irbil and Suleymaniyah in the KRG or start using heavy bombers like the B-52.
I make no claim myself as to the correctness of Col. Lang’s estimate, lacking the competence to agree or disagree with him. I simply have the impression that on topics of logistics, he is usually (unusually) well-informed.
On a less tasteful note…
At least one embodinment of far-right US Christianity had to get the Yezidi wrong, mistaking them for devil worshippers:
I don’t doubt that there are many more factors in Pres. Obama’s seemingly reluctant decision to intervene at this point than the somewhat dubious one suggested here. My point, however, is that Bryan Fischer is simply echoing the caliphate’s own misinterpretation when he claims the Yezidi are devil-worshippers — and the caliphate is hardly the best authority on Yezidi theology to follow…
FWIW, on the differences in IS treatment of Christians and Yezidis, the Christian Science Monitor has this:
Unlike Christians, who have been told they must either pay a religious tax or convert to Islam to avoid death, the Yazidis are considered by Sunni militants to be infidels who deserve extermination.
“We believe that what they have done may be classified as genocide and a crime against humanity,” Gyorgy Busztin, the deputy special representative in Iraq of the UN secretary general, tells the Christian Science Monitor. “Regrettably the information indicates that they are not even given the choice of life or conversion but they are being treated as a group to be eliminated from the face of the earth.”
The persecutions, killings and explusions of Christians from the ancient churches of the Middle East is terrible enough: I had not expected to find horrors even worse..
Last but likely not least, here is a video documentary in two parts I ran across with further Yezidi background, including several clips from the scholar Philip Kreyenbroek, whose books I’ve recommended.
and Part 2:
Note particularly here Prof. Kreyenbroek’s assertion in the first two minutes of Part 2 that the “honor” stoning of the young woman Du’a Khalil Aswad, which brought considerable negative world press attention to the Yezidis in 2007, was uncharacteristic of Yazidi culture, and clearly instigated by pro-Saddam political forces intent on smearing the Yezidi good name.
Here we find ourselves, as so often, at the level of group hatred — but also at the level of individual humans, their aspirations and their griefs.