Yazidis, worshipers of the Peacock Angel

This article is also available in: Italiano

On 5 October 2018 Nadia Murad was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The award pays tribute to the efforts made by the Yazidi activist who has never stopped telling her story since she managed to save herself from Daesh in November 2014. But who are the Yazidis?

The basics

This is a clarification that we want to give due weight: the Yazidis are the faithful of Yazidism, not a different ethnic group. Indeed, it seems that this may have been the first religion of the Kurds, an ethnic group to which this faith is mainly addressed.

The Tawisi Melek

The Yazidis venerate the Tawisi Malek or “the Peacock Angel”, according to his faithful it would be the most important of the 7 angels created by the “primordial God” (whose name is not known as it is blasphemous for the faithful to name it) . This angel would also be the origin of Good and Evil, but man must still strive so that, thanks to his actions, it is the Good to triumph. With death the souls of the wicked transmigrate while those of the righteous can go to “Paradise”.

A copy of Mishefa Res in English

The Yazidis have 2 different sacred books: the Kitāb al-Ǧilwa (“Book of Revelation”) and the Maṣḥaf-i räš (“Black Book”) both written in Kurmanji, a dialect of Northern Kurdistan.

Between Persia, Turkey and the Arab world

In the 11th century even the faithful of Yazidism felt the contact of Islam. Thanks to their contact with Shaykh ‘Adi Hakkari, a scholar of theology from Baghdad, the Yazidis also introduced the vocabulary of Islam into their practice. Even today he is seen by the Yazidis as a sort of “Messiah” and his tomb in Lalish is the destination of an obligatory pilgrimage (very similar to the Hajj).

Shaykh ‘Adi Hakkari’s mausoleum in Lalish

Another peculiarity of the Yazidis is the hierarchical structure. There are in fact two authorities, one secular (Emir) based in Ba’adra and one religious (Shaykh) based in Sinjar. The complex political situation in Kurdistan has meant that with the passage of time the Emir also assumed a civil representation function, in order to help the faithful to better interface with the various countries.


The constant presence of fire and light in their ceremonies could be the result of his encounter with Zoroastrianism, the historical religion of those places and which sees in the fire a central role. Furthermore, its faithful are called in Turkish Čyrāġ Söndüren, meaning “lamp extinguishers”

Eternals persecuted

Because of the similarities between the Tawisi Malek and the “monotheistic Devil”, the cult of the Yazidis has always been frowned upon and therefore persecuted by every people who reigned over the Yazidi lands. In the cases of such unique and particular communities as the Yazidi, everything obviously becomes simpler and causes immediate electoral and non-electoral consensus. This people was in fact forced to flee from the more central Mosul to take refuge from the persecutions implemented over the centuries.

Daesh in Mosul

The last of these sees Nadia Murad as the protagonist who in August 2014 was enslaved by Daesh, managing to free herself, only after countless tortures, in November of the same year. Once she managed to reach Europe in 2015, she took care of making the history of her people known to the world. The merit of this renewed curiosity towards one of the most ancient peoples on earth is his.

For the sake of completeness: there have also only been Yazidi racist attacks on Kurdish Muslims. The former in fact consider themselves the only true descendants of Adam and for this reason they do not accept mixed marriages.

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