A Look at the Yezidi Journey to Self-discovery and Ethnic Identity

In: Iran and the Caucasus
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  • 1 Russian-Armenian (Slavonic) University, Yerevan
  • 2 Human Rights Lawyer, Washington DC

Yezidi communities throughout the world are struggling with their collective identity; each at a varying and somewhat differing stage of self-discovery. While the present paper does seek to elaborate upon this journey for the Yezidis in Transcaucasia, Germany, Canada, and the USA, its main focus remains the analysis of the political developments in the Yezidi heartland of Northern Iraq. This is so that the reader may have a fuller picture of the catalysts spurring this Yezidi reimagining. On the one hand, you have the traditional Yezidi leadership caught within a complex series of client-patron relationships with Kurdish leaders: ethnic identification is leveraged for promises of influence and power. While, on the other hand, newly minted Yezidi military commanders, as well as grassroot figures and Yezidi NGOs, are trying to establish themselves as heads of a Yezidi community that is undeniably distinct from their Kurdish neighbours. This paper will further show that the withdrawal of the Kurdish Peshmerga in the face of the ISIS attack in 2014, the half-hearted responses of the regional Kurdish and Federal Iraqi governments, all coupled with the stalled return of Yezidi refugees contributed to a growing Yezidi movement to cement their identity, as well as satiate a growing urgency to define themselves as a distinct ethnoreligious entity.

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