Wednesday, April 19th, is New Year’s Day for the Yazidi community,
The Yazidi community is one of the oldest cultures in the world, based mainly in Iraq. Yazidi beliefs predates Christianity and Islam.
God, or Huda, is for Yazidis a force that demands neither adoration nor subservience and exists in every part of the universe. Yazidi culture is tolerant of other faiths and traditionally provides women with greater equality. It has no specific requirements about what women can wear, and they are free to choose a partner. Although dowries are traditional – the custom seems to have been adopted from surrounding cultures – protections for women include the rule that a husband who abandons his wife may be automatically divorced and even banned from remarrying in the Yazidi faith.
Because Yazidism rejects the concept of hell, graveyards are places to honour family ancestors.
For New Year’s Day Yazidi women gather in cemeteries to celebrate and share food offerings, with dance and music for the spirits of the dead, the living and those yet to be born. Protecting the environment and the fertility of the earth is a primary focus. Symbolic gifts are prepared, especially around the New Year, to draw the attention of Tawûsê Melek (also known as Peacock Angel), the equivalent of an archangel in Christianity, to ensure that the earth remains fertile for the year ahead.
In August 2014, when Islamic State, or Isis, slaughtered more than 5,000 Yazidi men, including teens and the elderly, and enslaved a larger number of women and girls. The youngest boys were abducted to be indoctrinated in hatred; girls were used as sex slaves. These were not random acts of war. Isis declared that it wanted to wipe out the religion. Hundreds of thousands of Yazidis fled their homes, initially to Mount Sinjar, without food or water in the scorching heat. They subsequently became refugees, in the nearby region of Kurdistan, in Europe and in North America.
In August 2015, a year after the assault on Mount Sinjar, Zainab Hawa Bangura, the United Nations’ special representative for sexual violence in conflict, reported that “first-hand accounts . . . confirm systematic sexual violence, particularly against Yazidi women and children aged between eight and 35 years”.
In June last year the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, established by the UN’s human rights council, reported that “genocide has occurred and is ongoing” against the Yazidi community.