Wiping out an entire religion: how ISIS will inevitably eliminate an ancient culture unless the United States employs military and diplomatic intervention.

AuthorMullaney, Arielle

    Since the Ottoman Empire, the Iraqi minority group, the Yazidis, have faced more than seventy-two genocidal massacres and unless the United States provides more aid to this minority group, they face yet another massacre by the now infamous terrorist group, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). (1) Following in Al Qaeda's footsteps, ISIS denounced the Yazidi people as infidels because of their religious beliefs. (2) ISIS has ravaged through their villages, forcing thousands of Yazidis to flee to dangerous mountainsides, seek refuge with the Kurds, or flee to war-torn Syria. (3) Shockingly, this is not the worst thing ISIS has done to the Yazidis. (4) ISIS has kidnapped, raped, and sold their women, some as young as fourteen, for as little as USD25. (5) As the only power capable to prevent the extinction of the Yazidis at the hands of ISIS, the United States must step in. (6)

    This Note explores the Yazidi people and the inhumane treatment they have received and continue to receive most recently by the Islamic militant group ISIS. (7) Part II will discuss the history of the Yazidi people and the genocides they faced because of their unique religious beliefs. (8) Part II will also discuss u.S. foreign policy, prior u.S. intervention and its outcomes; both positive and negative. (9) Part III will discuss the current genocide, perpetrated by ISIS, that the Yazidis are trying to avoid and the assistance the united States has provided in combating ISIS and aiding the Yazidi. (10) Part IV of this Note will analyze the importance of u.S. intervention in this potential genocide, and why it is key to the safety of the Yazidi people. (11) Finally, Part V of this Note will conclude in highlighting the inhumane treatment of the Yazidis and the drastic shift that would occur should an international power, such as the united States, get involved and stop ISIS from continuing their horrific actions towards this ancient minority group. (12)


    1. Yazidi History from the Ottoman Empire to Present Day: How They Faced Genocides in 18th Century and Are Trying to Avoid Another Today

      1. The Yazidi People and Their So-Called "Devil Worshipping"

        While the Yazidi's exact point of origin is unknown, they are believed to have developed from an ancient religion known as the "Cult of Angels." (13) The Yazidis are a subset of the Kurdish people and primarily live in traditional Kurdish areas located in northern Iraq and northeast Syria. (14) The Yazidis have been subject to many massacres throughout their history because of their blended religion, ancient traditions, and unique beliefs. (15) Their religion is a blend of Mithraism, Mazdaism, and Zoroastrianism and has taken on elements of Christianity and Islam. (16)

        Their beliefs in certain elements of Zoroastrianism have led some to believe they are in fact devil worshippers and persecute them for this reason. (17) Fanatical Muslims believe Yazidi is "a faith dedicated to the worship of Satan" specifically because of their unique worship of the fallen angel, Melek Tawwus, or Malek Taus. (18) In Muslim culture, the name Melek is associated with the name Shaytan, which is also the name used for Satan in the Quran. (19) This unique worship of Melek Tawwus has led to extreme hatred of the Yazidis from other religious groups as well. (20) Although there is little evidence that Yazidis are devil worshippers, their beliefs in elements of Zoroastrianism and Melek Tawwus contribute to this stereotype and their further persecution. (21)

      2. The Solitary Religion of Yazidi and Its Effects

        While the Yazidis have adopted some customs of Christianity and Islam, for the most part they have remained faithful to their ancient beliefs. (22) Although the Yazidis have no official "Holy Book" to which they refer, they do have two sacred books that they look to: the Kitab el-Jelwa, or the Book of Revelation, and the Meshef Resh, or The Black Book. (23) As the Yazidis lack one true "Holy Book," their traditions and beliefs have mostly been passed down orally. (24) while their religion is maintained only through their followers being near, the massacres and genocides have torn their religion apart in more ways than one. (25) As many Yazidis fear for their lives, they have fled to European countries or other regions of the Middle East. (26) Their displacement has weakened their faith and community, jeopardizing the maintenance and existence of their entire religion. (27)

        Along with their unique beliefs, the Yazidis do not engage in attempts to gain more followers nor do they accept any converts. (28) The belief that one who does not respect his own religion will never respect any other is central to the Yazidi's disallowance of converts. (29) As a result, not only is their religion one based off oral recitation, it is also one based off ancient bloodlines. (30) This unique practice places great emphasis on the fact that this religion is one that is self-contained, making displacement even more devastating to their culture. (31) The Yazidis belief in maintaining ancient bloodlines and self-containment combined with the disallowance of new converts is causing the Yazidi religion to disappear. (32)

      3. How the Yazidis Have Survived More than Seventy-Two Massacres

        Living in Kurdish territories, such as northern Iraq, the Yazidis have grown accustomed to the mountainous terrain. (33) using their location to their advantage, the Yazidis hide in the mountains when they are under siege or attack. (34) This minority group has been the target of many massacres and attacks, dating back as early as the Ottoman Empire. (35) During the rule of the Ottoman Empire alone, the Yazidis were subject to seventy-two genocidal massacres. (36) Prior to the current attacks from ISIS, the Yazidis were most recently attacked in 2007 during multiple coordinated truck bombs in Iraq in which 500 Yazidi people died. (37)

        Along with utilizing the terrain, the Yazidis created strong ties with others in the region, especially the Muslim Kurds, who provide some safety and protection. (38) With their strong belief in maintaining peace and respect for all religions, they have been fortunate enough to create relationships with other groups that have allowed for the maintenance of their culture. (39) As part of this relationship with the Muslim Kurds, they have created a "life-long obligation of mutual assistance and support." (40) Through the combination of their relationships founded on respect and their use of the mountainous terrain, the Yazidis have been able to survive for 4000 years, despite adversities. (41)

    2. The History of U.S. Intervention in Humanitarian Issues Around the World

      1. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961

        The U.S. Department of State, the leading agency responsible for foreign conduct, maintains in its mission statement to "shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere." (42) To uphold this statement and aid the President in carrying out foreign policy, Congress reorganized foreign policy and passed The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (The Act) on September 4, 1961 to "administer long-range economic and humanitarian assistance to developing countries." (43) The Act sets out the objectives and guidelines for U.S. foreign policy with regards to assisting other countries, especially in humanitarian crises. (44) The Act lays out the principal goals to take into consideration in the execution of any and all foreign policy. (45) Furthermore, in The Act, Congress emphasizes that American ideals are best upheld in a world in which other nations uphold similar ideals and rights, and continues to affirm "traditional humanitarian ideals of the American people." (46)

        The Act outlines specifically in Part II the manner in which the United States shall promote peace and security. (47) The United States shall provide military assistance and aid to areas dealing with internal and external aggression. (48) Further, The Act states that the United States shall "exert maximum efforts" to "protect complying countries against violation and invasion." (49) The Act creates a set of guidelines for the Department of State, along with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the President to follow in executing foreign policy, allowing for American ideals to be upheld while also establishing peace throughout the world. (50)

      2. Carrying Out The Act: How the United States Has Dealt with Major Foreign Issues

        The Act specifically details the manners in which the United States was to handle specific crises in such areas as Africa, Poland, Israel, Asia, Afghanistan, among many others. (51) The Act provides the policy considerations behind assisting in these particular crises and detailed instructions on how to carry out such assistance. (52) Although this may address specific instances, these are step-by-step instructions on how U.S. foreign policy is to deal with future crises of poverty, disease, and inhumane treatment of women, children, and minorities, just to name a few. (53) While The Act does not amend to include all U.S. intervention specifically, it lists virtually any humanitarian issue the United States will be faced with. (54) Thus, the Department of State and the President should never be at a loss for how to carry out foreign policy, given that it is listed for them in The Act. (55)

        While The Act lists many specific instances, it is clear that the United States has become involved in its fair share of international humanitarian conflicts, with consequences, since The Act's last amendments. (56) Each President in recent history has had to deal with humanitarian crises and military intervention overseas. (57) In each of these instances, Presidents, along with the Department of State and USAID, have had to follow The Act and maintain American ideals and policies...

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