Yezidi Minority Fear Persecution in Iraq Civil War

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July 6, 2014
Doghat village, Nineveh, Iraq

Video shows the shrine of Sheikh Mohamad al-Bateni, a Yezidi temple in the Doghat village of Nineveh, north of Mosul.
Sheikh Ismail, the custodian of the shrine, performs rituals and speaks about the changing situation of the Yezidi minority in Iraq, after extremist Sunni militants took control of Mosul and vast swathes of Nineveh province.

Despite the concerns of Sheikh Ismail for the safety of all minorities in the area, Doghat is now controlled by Peshmerga forces, which he says ‘provide us with protection’. However, a video previously released by ISIS shows captured Yazidis in an ISIS prison located on the Iraqi-Syrian border. An ISIS fighter in the video states ‘the prisoners are Yazidis, they worship the Devil’.

The Yazidi religion is an ancient oriental belief mostly spread in areas of Mesopotamia. They worship Melek Taus and believe he is a proud angel who rebelled and was cast into Hell by God. After being reconciled with God, he became chief of the angels.


Sheikh Ismail: “The Yezidi live mostly in Baghdad. There they own shops and work. In the first attack against the Yezidi, seven people were killed. Another attack happened last year and eight people died. In the current situation they kidnap the Yezidi.”

Does kidnapping happen in this village?

Sheikh Ismail: “Yes it happens in this village and in all other villages. A lot of kidnapping happens. They look at IDs and kidnap people.”

Is a Yezidi person in Mosul afraid to say he is Yezidi?

Sheikh Ismail:
“Yes of course! He says he is Christian. Of course a Yezidi person fears to say he is Yezidi.

To be honest the situation is scary for the Yezidi sect, and for the Christians and for all the other minorities. They destroy our shrines, and it is a scary thing. The Yezidi sect is tolerant of all other religions but ISIS and the rebels attack the villages and say “they are Yezidi or they are Christian” and it is a scary thing, However, our area, the Christian area, is under the protection of the Peshmerga. If Section 140 is applied we are under the control of Kurdistan. Under these circumstances we are not afraid, we are under the protection of the Peshmerga and the central protection forces.”

As a man of religion, are you willing to carry a weapon and fight and defend your religion and your land, if an attack happens?

Sheikh Ismail:

“I am willing to defend my village, my honour, and my shrines. Me and every person who listens to me. If, God forbid, anything happens and they want us to leave the area, we would rather die than leave. We will defend our village, our shrines, and our dignity with everything we have. We already had to back in the war between Iraq and Iran. Didn’t we defend Iraq? Didn’t the Christians defend Iraq? But you do not understand whatever the situation is, whether it’s ISIS, rebels, or the government not doing its work, Sunni or Shiite, the civilians are always afraid. The Yezidi are not emigrating now, but they are considering immigrating to foreign countries, for the sake of their future. Whoever lives in Baghdad and in those areas, definitely considers immigrating if they are able to do so”.