This paper discusses three religious communities in Northern Iraq that are characterized by the shared fate of having been targeted by the 2014 “Islamic State” (IS) offensive. These events dramatically brought home the vulnerability of these communities in post-Saddam Iraq; but the precarious status of these groups was already painfully visible even to the most casual observer prior to the IS onslaught. In this paper, I trace the rather different trajectories of these—initially broadly comparable—minority groups, with a focus on the changing articulation and legitimation of religious leadership. I do so by pointing out some of the longer-term tendencies among these groups, while treating religious leadership in terms of patronage.
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