Iraqi President Fuad Masum speaks during press conference in the Jordanian capital Amman, on May 19, 2017. Photo: AFP / Kahalil Mazraawi
DUHOK, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi President Fuad Masum has issued an apology to the Yezidi community, calling their religion “ancient and independent” after his earlier description of their faith as a remnant of Zoroastrianism angered some Yezidis.
Speaking to media during a state visit to Jordan last week, Masum said that there is now greater understanding of the Yezidi religion following the massacre conducted against them by ISIS.
He said that there were misconceptions about their origins before the massacre, including the false belief that Yezidis are the descendants of an Islamic ruler named Yazid ibn Muawiya, or Yazid I as he is more commonly known, who ruled in the seventh century.
He said in Jordan that even the very word Yezidi is wrong as they self-describe themselves Ezidis who have origins in the Zoroastrian religion.
“They are the remnants of Zoroastrianism and mixed with it are some Islamic laws,” Masum told reporters in Jordan.
A Yezidi religious leader appealed for Masum to learn more about the faith before speaking about it.
“Anyone who touches upon the [issue] of Ezidis has to first know what Ezidism is,” Sheikh Alo told Rudaw.
He said that their religion precedes that of Zoroastrian by 2,000 years and claimed Kurds were originally Yezidis, although the majority now follow Islam.
“It is very bad for them – for prominent Kurdish people to go and spread misconceptions about his nation to the outside world,” Alo added about Masum’s foreign trip to Jordan. Masum is a Kurd.
Lalish Cultural and Social Center in Duhok is the highest cultural center of the Yezidis in the province where many Yezidis live. They are studying the origin of the religion.
Shamo Qasim, a public relations officer at the center, told Rudaw that their findings show that their religion is older than other religions in the region.
“Even the Zoroastrianism has benefited from some elements of Ezidism, because it comes after the Ezidi,”Qasim said. He claimed that many of the elements of the holy book of the Zoroastrian religion come from religions that preceded it, including Metra and Yezidi faiths.
Following objections to his comments in Jordan from the Yezidi community, the Iraqi presidency’s office issued a statement on Monday saying that he fully respects the Yezidi religion and is committed to the community’s constitutional rights.
“[President Masum] believes that the Ezidi religion is an ancient religion and is independent on its own,” the statement said.
It added that Masum made his remarks in defense of the Yezidi and Christian communities who had suffered genocide and crimes against humanity at the hands of ISIS.
Zoroastrianism is an ancient, pre-Islamic religion with many people still practicing the faith in Iran, Kurdistan Region, and India.
Many of its adherents in Kurdistan believe the founder of the Zoroastrianism, Zoroaster or Zardasht as it is called in Kurdish, was a Kurd and he spoke a variation of Kurdish language called Avesta.