Friday, August 12, 2005

I bet you don't know this

In Iraq, ancient sect quietly lives on faith:[SOUTH PINELLAS Edition]
SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN. St. Petersburg Times. St. Petersburg, Fla.: Apr 26, 2004. pg. 1.A
Full Text (1723 words)
Copyright Times Publishing Co. Apr 26, 2004



As darkness falls over the remote mountains of northern Iraq, a man moves silently within ancient walls, setting flame to hundreds of wicks soaked in olive oil. In the dim light, shadows dance among the tombs, the urns, the black snake carved into the stones.

This is the sacred temple of the Yezidis, As followers of one of the world's oldest and most unusual religions, Yezidis practice a faith that reveres Malak Ta'us, an angel in the form of a peacock, and forbids eating lettuce, wearing the color blue or marrying in April.

But if their beliefs are far from mainstream, the Yezidis themselves reflect the great ethnic and religious diversity of Iraq, a rich melange of Christians, Kurds, Muslims, Chaldeans, Turkmen and Assyrians. And like others who suffered so much under Saddam Hussein, the Yezidis who survived his rule are determined to ensure their rights in a new and hopefully democratic Iraq.

"America is our friend and America helped all of us," says Namir Kachow Hassan, a Yezidi (YEH-zuh-dee) who serves as a senior official in the Kurdistan Regional Government of northern Iraq.

No one knows how many Yezidis there are; estimates range from less than 100,000 to 600,000. Since the U.S.-led coalition toppled Hussein, Yezidis have won a seat on the town council in Mosul. They also expect to be represented on the Iraqi Governing Council, if and when that group expands and assumes political power from the Americans on June 30.

But even in the north, the safest part of an unsafe country, the Yezidis are so worried about extremist attacks they canceled most of their traditional springtime celebrations.

"There are people in the Islamic religion who are against democracy, and there are Islamic parties that want to run all of Iraq," Hassan says. "The Iraqi people are used to violence, used to war, so they can't accept democracy very easily."

A former judge, Hassan looks and acts like any other prominent Iraqi, dressed in a dark business suit with pinstriped tie. He carries a mobile phone that rings to the tune of We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

But throughout much of their 4,000-year history, religious persecution has forced the Yezidis to lead secretive lives, resulting in the many falsehoods about their faith.

"They couldn't worship and pray openly because they were afraid," says Kheri Bozani, director of the Lalish Center in Dohuk. "If you came in the past, you couldn't meet with the Yezidi people themselves, and so there was a lot of wrong and unfortunate information."

The center, named for the Yezidis' holy Lalish Temple, opened to separate fact from fiction. But Bozani concedes that most non- Yezidis still find the faith somewhat bizarre.

"Even if you lived among the Yezidis for 10 years," he says, "you couldn't understand us very well."

Although it is rooted in nature, Yezidism has similarities to Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism.

In the beginning, the Yezidis believe, God created seven angels and ordered them to pray only to him. Thousands of years later, God created Adam and, as a test, ordered the angels to pray to Adam. Six angels did, but the seventh, Malak Ta'us, refused.

"Why did you not pray to this man I created?" God asked.

"Because I remembered your command to pray only to you," Malak Ta'us replied, according to the Yezidis' oral tradition.

For passing the test, Malak Ta'us was made chief angel and sent to earth, where God created Eve from Adam's rib. The angel taught Adam and Eve how to procreate, and thus did humans populate the earth.

Yezidis have no devil in their religion, and the reason they are called devil worshipers has long since been lost in the mists of time. One possibility is that both the Bible and the Koran, the Muslim holy book, talk of an angel-turned-devil who angered God and was cast out of heaven. Those of other faiths might have misconstrued Malak Ta'us as a "fallen" or bad angel even though Yezidis believe he was sent to earth because he was God's favorite.

Another possible reason is that the snake - a symbol of goodness to Yezidis - is viewed by Christians as the serpentine devil that tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden.

Whatever the case, Yezidis adamantly deny they are a satanic cult. "In Islam there is a God and also a devil, but in Yezidism we don't have any term like 'devil,' " Bozani says.

Nor do Yezidis have the concept of hell, instead believing that the souls of the dead repeatedly return to earth until they are purified. As punishment, a bad person might first come back stricken with disease or reincarnated in animal form.

"Someone like Saddam might return as a donkey," says Murad Ali Hamed, a Yezidi teacher.

Like all Yezidis, Hamed is Kurdish, one of the 5-million non- Arabs of northern Iraq who were brutally oppressed after Hussein came to power in 1979.

As part of his "Arabization" program, Hussein drove Yezidis and other Kurds from their villages, replacing them with Arabs. Many villages were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of Kurds killed.

"The Yezidis suffered from the situation more than anybody in Iraq because of our religion first and because of our nationality second," says Hassan, the government official.

Some Yezidis fled to Germany and other countries. But most remained in Iraq, where they were forced from their villages into crowded, squalid compounds. They were denied national identity cards, forbidden to write about their religion and barred from holding government jobs.

Yet Yezidi men were conscripted into Hussein's army and sent to the front lines during the disastrous Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. More than a thousand lost their lives.

After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, American and British fighter planes provided air cover to much of northern Iraq, allowing the Kurds to establish a relatively democratic government independent of Hussein's regime. The 50,000 Yezidis living in so-called "Kurdistan" began to enjoy freedoms they had never known.

Hassan, for example, had graduated from judges' college in Baghdad, but was barred from working in Hussein-controlled southern Iraq. After 1991, he served as a judge in Kurdistan, then became a minister for regional affairs. Hundreds of other Yezidis also got jobs in the Kurdistan government.

Most Yezidis, though, were outside Kurdistan, and for them life remained as grim as it did for the rest of Iraq's people. Until Hussein's regime fell last year, they were even barred from traveling to Lalish Temple, their holiest site.

Now they come by the hundreds to the 930-year-old shrine, deep in the mountains southeast of Dohuk. Here, beneath conical towers that represent the sun's life-giving rays, they stroke the black snake carving by the door and step into smoke-darkened rooms.

Many carry colorful skeins of fabric, an offering to God that they hope will bring good luck or better health. Others sprinkle their hair with water from an underground stream.

Zim-Zim, a cave where baptisms and other holy rites are performed, remains off limits to nonbelievers. But despite their secretive reputation, Yezidis seem willing, even eager, to talk about their faith now that they are free of Hussein.

Malak Ta'us, the chief angel, is represented as a peacock, they explain, because it is a beautiful bird whose feathers include many of the colors found in nature.

The snake is revered by the Yezidis because it saved Noah's Ark from sinking. How? By plugging a leak with its body after the ark hit a mountain.

The reason for not eating lettuce, they say, is because it's unclean, lacking a skin or rind to protect the edible part from dirt.

Yezidism also prohibits wearing blue - a holy color because it is the hue of the sky - and eating roosters. The latter ban is widely ignored, with chicken second only to lamb in popularity at the dinner table.

"In every religion lots of things are forbidden," notes Bozani, director of the Lalish Center. "If you bring a chicken now, I will eat it with you."

But Yezidis still don't marry in April because that is the holy month in which God created the world, they believe. And Yezidis can't marry outside the faith, nor can a non-Yezidi convert.

If Christians and Muslims consider Yezidism strange, the Yezidis find it strange that certain followers of those religions have been so brutal. How can anyone who believes in God, they ask, persecute and kill people who only want to live in peace?

"We respect other religions - everyone who respects God, we respect him," says Hamed, the teacher. "Why can't they respect us?"

- Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at susan@sptimes.com.

ON THE WEB

Times senior correspondent Susan Taylor Martin and photojournalist Jamie Francis are writing "Iraq Diary" for www.sptimes.com. Look for "Links from the Paper."

Yezidis wait in line to pay tribute at the mountain tomb of Karajal, a holy site near Dohuk in northern Iraq, on Wednesday, which was one of the most important days in their religious calendar.

A Yezidi worshiper kisses the entrance to the tomb of Karajal, where every visitor leaves money for the poor inside.

A Yezidi worker at the Lalish Temple, in the mountains southeast of Dohuk, presses olive oil from one of the burning wicks that illuminate the walls.

After returning from a pilgrimage up to the mountain shrine of Karajal, near Dohuk in northern Iraq, Yezidis fire weapons into the air as a sign of their respect.

In the village of Kalabadri, destroyed by Saddam Hussein in 7, landowners tend their sheep. "We are cursed twice by Saddam," says one, "once because we are Yezidi and once because we are Kurdish."

[Illustration]
Caption: Yezidis wait in line to pay tribute at the mountain tomb of Karajal on Wednesday.; A Yezidi worshiper kisses the entrance to the tomb of Karajal.; A Yezidi worker at the Lalish Temple presses olive oil from one of the burning wicks that; illuminate the walls.; After returning from a pilgrimage up to the mountain shrine of Karajal, near Dohuk in northern Iraq, Yezidis fire weapons into the air as a sign of their respect.; In the village of Kalabadri, destroyed by Saddam Hussein; in 1987, landowners tend their sheep.; Map locates Lalish, Iraq.; Photo: PHOTO, JAMIE FRANCIS, (5); MAP

20 Comments:

Blogger Emmunah said...

here is the Yezidi in America site:
http://www.lincolninterfaith.org/yezidi.htm

here is michael yon's interview with them in iraqi kurdistan:
http://michaelyon.blogspot.com/2005/06/lost-in-translation.html

very interesting isn't it?

7:46 PM  
Blogger yochanan said...

thanks emmunah nice to hear from you.

I have read teh lincoln site will have to see what Michael has to say.

6:58 AM  
Blogger B.a.D said...

I Bet You Didn't Know This:

NEWS YOU WON'T FIND ON CNN


Memo: Bush made intel fit Iraq policy

By WARREN P. STROBEL and JOHN WALCOTT

05/06/05 "Knight Ridder" - - WASHINGTON - A highly classified British memo, leaked in the midst of Britain's just-concluded election campaign, indicates that President Bush decided to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by summer 2002 and was determined to ensure that U.S. intelligence data supported his policy.

The document, which summarizes a July 23, 2002, meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair with his top security advisers, reports on a visit to Washington by the head of Britain's MI-6 intelligence service.

The visit took place while the Bush administration was still declaring to the American public that no decision had been made to go to war.

"There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable," the MI-6 chief said at the meeting, according to the memo. "Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD," weapons of mass destruction.

The memo said "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in March 2003.

The White House has repeatedly denied accusations made by several top foreign officials that it manipulated intelligence estimates to justify an invasion of Iraq.

It has instead pointed to the conclusions of two studies, one by the Senate Intelligence Committee and one by a presidentially appointed panel, that cite serious failures by the CIA and other agencies in judging Saddam's weapons programs.

The principal U.S. intelligence analysis, called a National Intelligence Estimate, wasn't completed until October 2002, well after the United States and United Kingdom had apparently decided military force should be used to overthrow Saddam's regime.

The newly disclosed memo, which was first reported by the Sunday Times of London, hasn't been disavowed by the British government. A spokesman for the British Embassy in Washington referred queries to another official, who didn't return calls for comment on Thursday.

A former senior U.S. official called it "an absolutely accurate description of what transpired" during the senior British intelligence officer's visit to Washington. He spoke on condition of anonymity.

A White House official said the administration wouldn't comment on leaked British documents.

In July 2002, and well afterward, top Bush administration foreign policy advisers were insisting that "there are no plans to attack Iraq on the president's desk."

But the memo quotes British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, a close colleague of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, as saying that "Bush had made up his mind to take military action."

Straw is quoted as having his doubts about the Iraqi threat.

"But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbors, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran," the memo reported he said.

Straw reportedly proposed that Saddam be given an ultimatum to readmit United Nations weapons inspectors, which could help justify the eventual use of force.

Powell in August 2002 persuaded Bush to make the case against Saddam at the United Nations and to push for renewed weapons inspections.

But there were deep divisions within the White House over that course of action. The British document says that the National Security Council, then led by Condoleezza Rice, "had no patience with the U.N. route."

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the leading Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is circulating a letter among fellow Democrats asking Bush for an explanation of the document's charges, an aide said.

Copyright Knight Ridder

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)











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10:30 AM  
Blogger yochanan said...

B.A.D. i bet you think the mass graves were not real and that Saddam was a saint.

what part of genocide doesn't the left understand.

Remember the canadians were head of the peacekeepers in Rwanda when they allowed the genocide to happen. So I guess genocide does not matter to canadaians anyway unless they can blame america

5:20 PM  
Blogger yochanan said...

emmunah thank you for the link to michael yon's. It was well worth the read. thank you come by any time emmunah you are always welcome.

5:33 PM  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Yochanan,

I am asking you for the third time now to please be respectful of my blog and post on topics that are responsive to the post at hand.
For some reason, you are unable to respect my wishes and it is beginning to become offensive to me.

I think I have been MORE than patient with you. YOu have your own blog to post what you desire, and other than eliminating you from posting altogether on my blog, I am left without a remedy.

It feels as if my words mean nothing.

6:03 PM  
Blogger yochanan said...

not to worry I will not go to your blog anymore no point it seems one way attacks are ok you don't seem to have any problem with calling a elected president a nazi or fascist. but showing different points of view mostly gives you an excuse to use censor ship.

you say don't use hatefull speech but calling an America a fascist is not considered hate. But when i Post what REAL neo fascists are saying you censor it. I have never taken off a post as I really believe in free discorse of ideas.

6:30 PM  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

I invite you to go through each and every one of my posts and find where I call Bush a facist or Nazi.

As far as deleting the rest of your comments, you can delete them yourself. Your idea of free exchange and disrespect of others is mixed up in your mind.

So you know, freedom of speech is not absolute. Check out the first amendment. And since you are posting non-responsivly on MY blog, it is my right to delete your posts where I find them disrespectful or not to be on point.

You are the ONLY person I have ever deleted, and if you read the comments on my blog, many other people find your arguments somewhat off topic.

Be well.

6:48 PM  
Blogger yochanan said...

a number of your left wing posters had done that. you don't believe in free speech

9:39 PM  
Blogger B.a.D said...

Yochanan being off topic?

NEVER.
:D

He just doens't answer what he know he can't answer without being wrong.

Barb, your last post was great. Keep 'em coming. I get lots of e-mails about people who love your site.

2:31 PM  
Blogger yochanan said...

B.A.D. speaking of off topic comments on my blog you are always off comment have i ever deleted you?

hipocrite

2:46 PM  
Blogger B.a.D said...

nope, you haven't... and i've never deleted you either

8:13 PM  
Blogger Vladimir said...

Let's keep to the topic. I think it's a nice article. I will make one in Dutch too ...

Only thing the author has failed to answer, that Yezidism is a Kurdish religion, only followed by Kurds and that it exists especially in North and South Kurdistan (North Iraq, Southeast Turkey).

Too bad also Yezidi followers switched to Sunni Islam. Like a Kurd I spoke in Western Turkey. His granddad was Yezidi, but they later converted to Islam..

Keep up the blogs..

Vladimir

4:55 AM  
Blogger yochanan said...

vladimir they seem like nice people wonder are other Kurds showing interest in them?

6:56 AM  
Blogger Vladimir said...

Yes, there is information about them on the PUK site I think.

You know why some Kurds show interest in them. Because they got fed up with Islam or they see that Yezidi is PURE Kurdish.. not from Arabs or an other race.

2:24 PM  
Blogger yochanan said...

MAKES SENCE

3:30 PM  
Blogger Vladimir said...

http://kurdistanblog.blogspot.com/

Important information for you.. terroristic Iran president coming to America..

3:45 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:54 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Chris said...
Alright. I've seen enough. Yoch, you are guilty of posting your blogs on other posts as comments that have nothing to do with the posts they are supposed to be commenting on. As far as the Yezdis go, they look like a Satanic religion, they sound like a Satanic religion, and I think they are a Satan-worshiping religion. I want their rights to be respected in the new Iraq, but I won't have too much sympathy for the devil. I know, we Christians and Jews are the devil to some Muslims. That's why I hope their rights are respected. But there are more important minorities to be protected, as in Kurds as a autonomous region, and women throughout the country. This post brings up some serious thoughts about religious prejudice, but you oversold your cause, causing a negative bias from more than just me. Good luck with the blogging, because I do agree with you on many issues. Just stop being such a troll (short for trawler, as in trawling for fish, or hits on your blog).

5:00 AM  
Blogger Vladimir said...

They worship god. They aren't Satanists. If the Yezidi's are Satanists, you can label muslims as Satanists too. Because they came after the Jews and Christians.

5:07 PM  

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