The Yezidis, an ancient enigmatic Kurdish mountain people, are considered one of the oldest ethnicities in the Middle East, and often derided as ‘devil-worshippers’. Distinct from the majority Sunni Kurds, Yezidis’ religion evolved through a fusion of Sufism with earlier religious beliefs indigenous to the
region, including Zoroastrian, Jewish, Gnostic and Christian motifs. They attribute a prominent place to their protector, the Peacock Angel, traditionally identified with Satan by Muslims.
Historically labelled as heretics and mercilessly persecuted, the Yezidis developed a unique culture and caste system. More recently, under Saddam Hussein, Yezidi culture underwent radical changes, with the forced resettlement into collective villages and geographic isolation reinforced by the political
fallout from the Second Gulf War.
Along with her enquiry into the meaning and manner of their practices, Spät takes note of the increasing demands of modernisation and the shifting balance of power in the region, and also observes the stirrings of inner strife in an otherwise tough, resilient community that has endured continuous attempts at eradication over centuries.
The author has made repeated visits to Iraqi Kurdistan since 2002, observing and recording the Yezidi way of life and has been given rare access to their holiest sites and rituals.
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