The Atlantic

How ISIS Changed the Yezidi Religion

Those who went into exile have creatively adapted their rituals. Those who stayed have been just as innovative.
Source: Ari Jalal / Reuters

BEHZANE, IRAQ—On a recent Friday afternoon, Yezidi musicians led a procession of worshipers toward a newly rebuilt temple on a hillside in northern Iraq. Women burned incense and the congregation threw handfuls of sweets at the flute and drum players. Hundreds of local Yezidis from the town of Behzane, near Mosul, had gathered to reopen one of the temples blown up by ISIS.

“We are so excited to be back,” said a flute player, Arean Hassan. The spiraling, rhythmic music played by Yezidi musicians, known as Qawwals, had been absent from the hills of Behzane for three years under ISIS. Around the newly rebuilt temple stood the charred stumps of olive trees that ISIS had burned to the ground.

Behzane fell to ISIS in the summer of 2014, after the group seized Mosul. In August of that year, ISIS massacred and kidnapped thousands of Yezidis in Sinjar, 90 miles west of Behzane. More than 6,000 women were enslaved, and men were lined up and shot outside their towns. Many more Yezidis died

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min read
The U.S.-India Relationship Is Bigger Than Trump and Modi
Will the strategic bet that America and India have made on each other deliver on its full potential?
The Atlantic4 min read
The Message of Grimes’s Dark Masterpiece
The singer’s new album, Miss Anthropocene, combines angsty music styles with a supposedly environmental purpose—but mostly to indulge the thrill of submission.
The Atlantic6 min read
Meat Trimmings Are a Health Food Now
For most Americans, meat sticks have one face: Macho Man Randy Savage. The pro wrestler fronted the Slim Jim brand for much of the 1990s, flipping tables and crashing through ceilings in television commercials to implore young men to snap into dried