What Really Happened to the Yazidis of Iraq... And What Comes Next

People assume it was all chaos and haphazard slaughter, but that’s not what really happened.

When ISIS swept across Iraq, they approached each religious group differently. Each was given a set of options.

All of it was premeditated, ruthlessly calculated.

The plight of Iraq’s Christians on the Nineveh plain in northern Iraq is well-known. Under ISIS, they were given four choices:

  1. Pay the protection tax

  2. Convert

  3. Leave town

  4. Die

As terrible as that is, the Yazidi people had half the options:

  1. Convert

  2. Die

Initially, many Yazidis were told by ISIS that they didn’t have to convert. They could if they wanted, but “we won’t hurt you if you don’t,” the militants promised.

When Yazidis answered that, given the choice, they’d keep their faith, they were murdered in cold blood.

Time and again, young Yazidi men and the elderly were slaughtered. Young women and children were bussed away to slave markets and suicide bomber training camps.

The militants did all of this to accomplish one simple goal: eradicate the Yazidi culture.

In the eyes of ISIS, the Yazidi people are an abomination that should no longer exist. The Yazidis have been grossly misrepresented and dehumanized.

They’ve been labeled "heretics."

"Polytheists."

"Satan worshippers."

By November 2015, over 5,000 Yazidi men had been killed by ISIS. An estimated 7,000 women and girls have been made sex slaves.

Keep in mind, there are only about 650,000 Yazidis in all of Iraq to begin with. And every day, more mass graves are discovered, as more Yazidi lands are liberated.

ISIS is trying to extinguish the Yazidi faith and culture, but you are fighting back.

This year, because you've stood with them, Yazidi elders—the storytellers, poets, and spiritual leaders of their community—will gather Yazidi youth together to strengthen and protect their culture.

Your giving helps provide more than just a few dry history lessons for Yazidi youth. Besides, this is about more than the past. This is about the future. It's about resisting ISIS, refusing to let an entire culture be wiped out by hatred.

Most Yazidi culture is passed down orally—they don’t have a central sacred text. But nothing can be passed down without elders to share their wisdom and eager young listeners to receive it. With the Yazidi community more dispersed and vulnerable than ever, this is nothing less than a race to prevent genocide—to combat a loss of memory, songs, traditions, records, heritage, and ritual.

Thank you for stepping in and saying no to ISIS and others who would drag us all into an "us-vs-them" culture war. Thank you for choosing to love people—even those so different from yourself!

Thank you for continuing to protect an entire culture from eradication.

About Matthew Willingham

Matt Willingham is Preemptive Love's Senior Field Editor and writes primarily on politics, history, general updates and visual peacemaking through photography and film.

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What Really Happened to the Yazidis of Iraq... And What Happens Next
What Really Happened to the Yazidis of Iraq... And What Comes Next
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