By Katherine Brinn
You've seen the dramatic headlines. Tens of thousands of Yezidis trapped in the Sinjar Mountains in northern Iraq after they were driven from their homes by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The Islamist extremist group is persecuting members of non-Muslim faiths in the massive region of Iraq and Syria it now controls. Hundreds of thousands of religious minorities have fled, and thousands who didn't have been brutally killed.
But the Yezidis are the most misunderstood group of all — and they're historically the most hated by Islamic militants.
Though Yezidis practice a peaceful religion, many Christians and Muslims have mistaken them for a satanic sect. Yezidis worship an angel named Malak Tawwus, who they believe once defied God. According to their tradition, Malak was forgiven and was welcomed back into the heavens.
That story hits too close to home for Christians and Muslims who believe that their devil figure shared the same sort of origin. Those faiths believe the fallen angel never regained favor with God. He became the devil, the leader of all things evil.
The confusion has led to centuries of persecution for the Yezidis. Al-Qaida, which spawned ISIS, even once sanctioned the indiscriminate killing of Yezidis; but now, ISIS may be the most dangerous oppressor yet. More than 600 Yezidis have been killed, and more than 100 women and children have been kidnapped.
Militaries from around the world are helping to bring food, water and supplies to trapped Yezidi refugees, and humanitarian workers have already led thousands to safety. But the fate of the rest remains uncertain, and the Yezidis' struggles are far from over.
As you wait for them to make it to safety, at least you can say, "Now I get it."
- Society & Culture
- Religion & Beliefs
- northern Iraq