Ezidis face “Islamization” in Turkey

The German-based pro-Kurdish Flash-Bulletin website has posted a Feb. 16 letter from a group of Ezidi academics protesting that Ezidi children in eastern Turkey are being forced to study Islam in school by local village authorities—a practice they charge is part of the "Turkish state’s assimilating policy against other ethnic and religious groups in general and Ezidis in particular." (Particularly cited is an unsourced press account from Oglakci village in the Viransehir region of Urfa province.) The writers of the letter accuse the Turkish government of bad faith in officially granting language and cultural rights to Kurds and other minorities in eastern Turkey, saying this policy is just a facade intended to facilitate entry into the European Union. The writers charge:

The Turkish state is demanding many cultural rights for Turkish citizens who are living in Europe including religion, mother tongue courses etc. On the other hand, it is not allowing any rights for Kurds, Ezidi Kurds, Alevi Kurds or any Christian groups living within the borders of Turkey. So, how can the Turkish state integrate with the modern world?

The Ezidis (also rendered Yezidis or Yazidis) are followers of a religion established by a 12th century Arab mystic, Sheikh Adi Musafir, which draws on elements of Islam, Christianity, Gnosticism and Zoroastrianism. They are mostly ethnic and linguistic Kurds, and their heartland largely overlaps with that of the Kurds, straddling eastern Turkey and northern Iraq. They have traditionally been derided by their Muslim neighbors as "devil-worshippers," although it is more accurate to say that they revere angels—as discussed by the famous Greek-Armenian mystic GI Gurdjieff in his autobiographical Meetings With Remarkable Men. There is an excellent overview of the Ezidis on the Gurdjieff Legacy website. Some sources maintain that the Ezidi religion predates not only Sheikh Adi but also Islam, Christianity and even Zoroastrianism, and that the angels of Ezidi cosmology are actually a survival of the ancient Indo-European gods. (See, e.g. the page on the Ezidis from the TourArmenia website.) Sheikh Adi is said to have given the Ezidis two books of revelation, but at least one has been lost (allegedly to a British museum), and their lore and history are largely kept alive via oral tradition under the direction of an hereditary priest-ruler, said to be Adi’s successor, the Bab el-Sheikh. An article on the Zoroastrianism.com website further elucidates their belief, noting that the divine being they revere as ruler of the earth, Malak Taus ("Peacock Angel"), is held to be fallen but not beyond redemption: an imperfect echo of both the Judeo-Christian Satan and the Zoroastrian Ahriman. However, the Zoroastrianism.com atricle goes to great pains to emphasize that the Ezidi beliefs are described only to differentiate them from Zoroastrian beliefs and dispel confusion between the two groups. The Ezidis do not appear to have their own website. Some passages from the Ezidi "Black Book" or Meshaf i Resh, a collection of hymns attributed to Sheikh Adi, are online at an Arizona-based website of the Golden Dawn (an esoteric order founded in Britain a century ago, to which the poet William Butler Yeats belonged).

Ezidis were targeted for mass murder by Turkish authorities in the closing years of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, along with the better-known and more numerous Armenians. The Survivors of the Armenian Genocide website includes an account of a massacre of Ezidis from the region of Kars, which changed from Russian to Turkish rule in World War I (and from which Gurdjieff hailed).

The Alevi, who are both Kurdish and Turkish, are followers of a Sufi-influenced form of Shi’ite Islam, tracing their origins to religious orders that arrived in the region from Central Asia before the rise of the Ottoman Empire. It is ironic that they face persecution under official Turkish nationalism, as the Alevi Turks consider themselves the "true Turks," who have kept alive indigenous Turkish culture and folklore against the "Arabized" Sunni Ottomans, according to the Islamics & Middle East Area Studies webpage.

The largest Ezidi town of Bashiqa and holy site of Lalish (where Sheikh Adi is buried) are both near Mosul in Iraq, and one wonders how they are faring there. See WORLD WAR 4 REPORT #67.