Yazidis, an ethno-cultural minority between myths and geopolitical interests

by Adele Casale

Abstract


The Yazidis are one of the most affected minority by recent ISIS’s abuses, war crimes and crimes against humanity.


But why them?


It might seem a trivial question, but it is not, because the faceted answer lies in the complex multicultural context of the Middle East. This analysis tries to investigate some of the root causes for ISIS’s atrocities examining the main cultural traits of an isolated population through some Iraqi geographic and historical frameworks. The goal is not to justify ISIS’s crimes, rather to highlight the features of this complex context, explain all the different claims about the topic and understand the core reasons behind this situation.


1. Introduction


Native of northern modern Iraq, the Yazidis[1] have recently drawn the attention of the International Community since they have been one of the main victims of ISIS’s operations between 2014 and 2015.

Why the Yazidis?


Infidels responsible for the occupation of most of the fertile and strategic lands[2] of al-Rāshidūn (632-661), the Yazidi people are surrounded by a mysterious and impenetrable aura linked to their geographical location and some cultural aspects imposing endogamy. Probably this is one of the main causes at the root of their isolation, earning them the reputation of "Devil Worshippers". However, it is important to bear in mind that they are nestled in the Middle East vast multi-ethnic arena, where factional interests, rivalries and alliances based on cultural identities shape the main local geopolitical dynamics. Only by analysing this complex system, it is possible to retrace the Yazidi cultural and historical identity, to try to see past the simple narration of executioner-victim.


There is no intention to deny the aberrant atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic State; the purpose is rather to shake off simplistic and decontextualized interpretations.


This analysis focuses on those geographical, historical, and cultural aspects defining their specific identity in relation to some, mostly local, geopolitical, and geostrategic interests.


Some guiding notes for the readers. The writer is aware of the historical and political circumstances of some of the sources consulted, especially concerning less recent ones; therefore, each data has been processed with a critical approach taking into account the instruments of analysis and knowledge gained so far.

Source PICHON, E., CLAROS, E., Minorities in Iraq. Pushed to the bri