The “Original” Kurdish Religion? Kurdish Nationalism and the False Conflation of the Yezidi and Zoroastrian Traditions

In: Journal of Persianate Studies
Author: Richard Foltz1
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  • 1 Concordia University, Montréal

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The religion of the Yezidi Kurds, which has often been inaccurately characterized as “devil-worship,” has been claimed by Kurdish nationalists since the 1930s as the “original” religion of the Kurdish people. It has likewise been asserted that the Yezidi faith is a form of Zoroastrianism, the official religion of Iran in pre-Islamic times. These notions have won official support from most Kurdish political organizations and have broadly penetrated Kurdish society. The identification of Yezidism with Zoroastrianism is historically inaccurate, however, and should be seen as a product of modern nation-building ideology. Sentimental attachment to Yezidism and/or Zoroastrianism among Kurds today is best understood in most cases as a political rejection of Islam and its perceived Arab connections, rather than in terms of genuine devotional commitment.

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