Yezidis in ancient India, or Indians in ancient Mesopotamia?: Re-imagining Ancient Yezidi Origins

Mija A Sanders

Abstract


Members and leaders of the Kurdish speaking Yezidi diaspora in Phoenix, Arizona—and transnationally—are in dialogue with members of the Indian diaspora about their common historical connections. “Are Yezidis from ancient India, or are Indians from ancient Mesopotamia?” Both of these claims and hypotheses situate Yezidis on the outside of a historical Muslim world, and have material effects. They add validity to non-Muslim traditions, by imagining a historical cultural root structure between India and Mesopotamia. They also help both Hindu nationalists and Yezidis to displace historical Muslim culture and dominance to somewhere else while reinforcing tropes of Islam synonymous with the “war on terror.” By de-historicising Islam and its presence in the Middle East and in India, Hindu and Yezidi community leaders co-imagine a pan-polytheism with roots in ancient Persian (Kurdish) Yezidi culture and language. The symbols that can be recognized today that span both traditions— the peacock, the peacock statue (sanjak), and the use of fire in places of worship—give testament to that imagined past. The contradictions of that historical narrative point to the limits of this historical work in the two communities, and find limits in modern identity articulations of Yezidi identity and Hindu identity alike. Material effects of the historical narrative include Indian imagery on the wall of Lalish, online circulating images and articles equating Yezidis to Hindus, and common activism, fundraising, and humanitarianism between Yezidi and Hindu communities in Phoenix, India, and in the Middle East.

Keywords


Yezidis, Kurdish diasporas, USA, RSS

Full Text:

PDF

References


Abdulhadi, Alsultany, Naber, Abdulhadi, Rabab, Alsultany, Evelyn, & Naber, Nadine Christine. (2011). Arab & Arab American feminisms : Gender, violence, & belonging (1st ed., Gender, culture, and politics in the Middle East). Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press.

Ackermann, A. (2004). A double minority: Notes on the emerging Yezidi diaspora. In Diaspora Identity and Religion: New Directions in Theory and Research (pp. 156-169). Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Alinia, M.. & Eliassi, B. (2014). “Temporal and Generational Impact on Identity, Home(land) and Politics of Belonging Among the Kurdish Diaspora.” Nordic Journal of Migration Research. Special issue article 4:2, 73-81. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/njmr-2014-0008

Allison, C. (2013). Unbelievable Slowness of Mind: Yezidi Studies from the Nineteenth to Twenty-First Century. The Journal of Kurdish Studies, VI, 1-Alsultany, E. (2012). Arabs and Muslims in the media: Race and representation after 9/11. NYU Press. DOI: 10.2143/JKS.6.0.2038086

Art of Living reaches out Yazidis, Shias and Christians in Iraq. (2014, October 28). Retrieved June 7, 2019, from https://www.srisriravishankar.org/work/peace-initiatives/art-of-living-reaches-out-yazidis-shias-christians-in-iraq/

Basu, T., Datta, P.Sarkar, S., Sarkar, T. and Sen, S.. (1993). Khaki Shorts, Saffron Flags: A Critique of the Hindu Right. New Delhi: Orient Longman

Bier, D. (2018, December 10). Trump might not have gotten his 'Muslim ban.' But he sure got his 'extreme vetting.' Retrieved June 8, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2018/12/10/trump-might-not-have-gotten-his-muslim-ban-he-sure-got-his-extreme-vetting/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.47a53012cf46

Cable, U. (2013, March) Review: New wave Arab American studies: Ethnic studies and the critical turn. American Quarterly, 65(1), 231-243.

Clancy, L. K. (2017, September 11). PHOTOS: Take a walking tour of Lalish's main temple. Retrieved May 23, 2019, from https://www.kurdistan24.net/en/culture/98cbfcad-8714-4c39-bc2f-ca83c1ed28e5

Cohen, Robin. (2008). Global Diasporas: An Introduction. International Migration Review 32 (3). DOI: 10.2307/2547774

Buffon, V., & Allison, C. (October, 2016). The gendering of victimhood: Western media and the Sinjar genocide.” Yezidism and Yezidi studies in the early 21st century. Journal of Kurdish Studies, 4(2), 122-130.

Drury, F. (2019, February 21). Islamic State: Thousands of foreign children in Syrian camps. Retrieved June 7, 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-47304399

Dulz, I. (October, 2016.) “The displacement of Yezidis after the rise of ISIS in northern Iraq.” Yezidism and Yezidi studies in the early 21st century. Journal of Kurdish Studies, 4(2), 122-130. http://dx.doi.org/10.33182/ks.v4i2.425

Dunning, C. (2015). Mark Amaru Pinkham: Sedona, City of star people. Retrieved June 9, 2019, from https://www.earthancients.com/?portfolio=mark-amaru-pinkham-sedona-city-of-star-people

Editor, A. Y. (2017). Yezidi post. Retrieved June 8, 2019, from https://yezidipost.wordpress.com/

Espiritu, Y. L. (2014). Body counts: The Vietnam War and militarized refugees. University of California Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/9780520959002

Fracek, S. (2015, January 26). Who are the Yezidis? What is their

connection to Hinduism? Why has ISIS targeted them? Retrieved June 8, 2019,

from

https://www.mythicistmilwaukee.com/mythicistmilwaukeeblog/2015/1/26/who-are-the-yezidis-what-is-their-connection-to-hinduism-why-has-isis-targeted-them

Gökçen, A. Tee, C. (2010) Notes from the Field: Yezidism: A New Voice and an Evolving Culture in Every Setting, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 37:3, 405-427, DOI: 10.1080/13530194.2010.524442

Gualtieri, S. (2009). Between Arab and White: Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora. University of California Press.

James, W. Y. (2019). Imprint of Racism: White Adult Males’ Transformational Experience from Racial Antipathy to Racial Reconciliation. American Journal of Qualitative Research, 3(1), 93-116. https://doi.org/10.29333/ajqr/5813

Harrigan, P. (2015, September 6). Yezidis and Hindus make common cause under 'Peacock Angel' - Yezidi Baba Sheikh at Washington DC Murugan Temple. Retrieved June 7, 2019, from http://www.worldhindunews.com/2014/12/08/36895/yezidis-and-hindus-make-common-cause-under-peacock-angel-yezidi-baba-sheikh-at-washington-dc-murugan-temple/

Harrigan, P. (2014, November 19). Retrieved June 08, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=AHXLkDVnAuI

Holland, R. (2017, May 12). The holy village Yazidis are coming back to. Retrieved June 8, 2019, from https://www.independent.co.uk/travel/middle-east/lalish-yazidi-kurdistan-sheikh-adi-ibn-musafir-erbil-peacock-angel-sinjar-isis-a7726486.html

Ismail, M. (n.d.). Yezidi Human Rights Organization-International. Retrieved June 7, 2019, from http://www.yezidihumanrights.org/

Kreyenbroek, P. G. (2009) Yezidism in the Diaspora: Different Generations speak about their religion. Wiesbaden.

Kreyenbroek, P. G. Omarkhali, Khanna. (2016, October) Introduction to special issue: Yezidism and Yezidi Studies in the early 21st century. Journal of Kurdish Studies, 4(2), 122-130. DOI: 10.33182/ks.v4i2.424

Lichtblau, E. (2016, November 15). U.S. Hate Crimes Surge 6%, Fueled by Attacks on Muslims. Retrieved June 8, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/15/us/politics/fbi-hate-crimes-muslims.html

Mahmood, S. (2016). Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report. Princeton University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/9781400873531

Maira, S. (2016). The 9/11 Generation: Youth, Rights, and Solidarity in the War on Terror. NYU Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.18574/nyu/9781479817696.001.0001

Maghbouleh, N. (2017). The limits of Whiteness : Iranian Americans and the everyday politics of race. Stanford University Press.

"Middle east christian committee" advocate at the UN for yezidis and christians facing genocide. (2015). PR Newswire Europe Including UK Disclose, Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.arizona.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy2.library.arizona.edu/docview/1728638381?accountid=8360

Morello, C. (2018, June 16). Under pressure from Pence, U.S. aid is directed to Christian, Yazidi communities in Iraq. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/under-pressure-from-pence-us-aid-directed-to-christian-yazidi-communities-in-iraq/2018/06/15/815d8e60-6f4c-11e8-afd5-778aca903bbe_story.html?utm_term=.e6eec3d53253. Accessed June 7, 2019.

Naber, N. (2012). Arab America: Gender, Cultural Politics, and Activism. New York: New York University Press.

Narayan, M. (2014, November 30). Yezidis wait for help in fight against IS; Ravi Shankar to the rescue. Retrieved June 7, 2019, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/india/yezidis-wait-for-help-in-fight-against-is-ravi-shankar-to-the-rescue/story-wZmQhpvoU4I661GvLiAByK.html

Omarkhali, K. (October, 2016). Transformations in the Yezidi tradition after the ISIS attacks: An interview with Dr. Ilhan Kizilhan. Yezidism and Yezidi Studies in the early 21st Century. Journal of Kurdish Studies, 4,(2), 122-130. http://dx.doi.org/10.33182/ks.v4i2.429

Otten, C. (2018, January 04). How ISIS changed the Yezidi religion. Retrieved June 7, 2019, from https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/12/how-isis-changed-the-yezidi-religion/548651/

Patwardhan, A. (May 3, 2017.) Eastern Shores of the Western World--The Middle East Experience. Yezidi Post. Retrieved March 8, 2019. http://yezidipost.com/2017/05/03/eastern-shores-of-the-western-world-the-middle-east-experience/

Pinkham, M. (2011). Yezidis and Hindus: Re-uniting as one people. Retrieved June 7, 2019, from http://www.yeziditruth.org/yezidis-and-hindus-re-uniting-as-one-people

Pinkham, M. (2019). Sacred Sites Journey. Retrieved June 8, 2019, from http://www.sacredsitesjourneys.com/Egypt-Nov2019/Egypt-Nov2019.htm

Puar, J. (2007). Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Duke University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/9780822390442

Rana, J. (2011). Terrifying Muslims: Race and Labor in the South Asian Diaspora. Durham & London: Duke University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/9780822393665

Safran, W. (1991). Diasporas in Modern Societies: Myths of Homeland and Return. Diaspora: Journal of Transnational Studies, 1, (1), 93-99. DOI: 10.1353/dsp.1991.0004

Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. Pantheon Books. http://dx.doi.org/10.4324/9780203092170-13

Sides, J., & Gross, K. (2013, May). Stereotypes of Muslims and support for the war on terror. The Journal of Politics, 75(3), 583-598 The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Southern Political Science Association. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0022381613000388

Shankar, R. (2018, March 23). Why we help Iraq's Yazidis. Retrieved June 7, 2019, from https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/379798-why-we-help-iraqs-yazidis

Shankar, G. S. (2014, November 16). Retrieved June 08, 2019, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApRku2YG-KA&feature=youtu.be

Smith, M. (2015, September 08). Yazidis Settle in Nebraska, but Roots Run Deep in Iraq. Retrieved June 8, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/08/us/yazidis-settle-in-nebraska-but-roots-run-deep-in-iraq.html

Spät, E. (2005). ‘Changes in the Oral Tradition of the Yezidis of Iraqi Kurdistan’, Journal of Kurdish Studies, 5, pp. 73-83.

Spät, E. (2016, October). Hola hola Tawusi Melek, hola hola Sehidet Singale: Persecution and the developent of Yezidi ritual life. Yezidism and Yezidi Studies in the early 21st Century. Journal of Kurdish Studies, 4(2), 122-130. http://dx.doi.org/10.33182/ks.v4i2.426

Spät, E. (2018, September). Yezidi identity politics and political ambitions in the wake of the ISIS attack.” Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, 20(5), 420-438 DOI: 10.1080/19448953.2018.1406689

Schmidinger, T. (2019). The battle for the mountain of the Kurds : Self - determination and ethnic cleansing in the Afrin Region of Rojava. PM Press.

Tamkin, E. (2018, September 18). Here's What Happened To A USAID Official Who Ran Afoul Of Mike Pence. Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/emilytamkin/usaid-christians-aid-iraq-pence-interference. Accessed June 7, 2019.

Tare, K. (2018, February 05). We want India become our voice at the UN, says Yazidi leader. Retrieved June 7, 2019, from https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/we-want-india-become-our-voice-at-the-un-says-yazidi-leader-1162378-2018-02-06

Thomas, S. (2018). Privileged minorities: syrian christianity, gender, and minority rights in postcolonial India. University of Washington Press.

Thangaraj, S. (2015). They Said ‘Go Back to Afghanistan’: South Asian American basketball culture and challenging the “terrorist” stereotype.” Ameriasia Journal, 41(2), 25-46. http://dx.doi.org/10.17953/aj.41.2.25

Thangaraj, S. (2015). Desi Hoop Dreams: Pick-Up Basketball and the Making of Asian American Masculinity. New York: New York University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.18574/nyu/9780814770351.001.0001

Thangaraj, S. (July, 2015) American public spaces and gender: Muslim America, sport, and activism.” In S. Joseph & S. Gualtieri, (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Women in Islamic s Cultures. Leiden: Brill.

Thangaraj, S. (October 2014).“‘Liting it up’: Indo-Pak basketball and finding the American-Ness in South Asian American institutions.” In R. King (Ed.), Asian Americans in Sport and Society. Abingdon: Routledge.

Thangaraj, S. (2019, April 03). Green cards and red lights: The Problem with Indian American activism. Retrieved June 8, 2019, from https://tropicsofmeta.com/2019/04/03/green-cards-and-red-lights-the-problem-with-indian-american-activism/

USAID. (July 25, 2018). Episode Six – Assisting Persecuted Communities in Iraq. Retrieved from https://www.usaid.gov/usaid-leads/ep-006-jul-2018.

Van Bruinessen, M. (2018, August 13). Middle East Institute. Retrieved June 7, 2019, from https://mei.nus.edu.sg/think_in/following-the-trail-of-a-peacock-from-northern-iraq-to-singapore-and-beyond-part-3/

Editor, A. Y. (n.d.). Yezidi Post. Retrieved June 8, 2019, from https://yezidipost.wordpress.com/

Yazda Global Yazidi Organization. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2019 from https://www.yazda.org/




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.29333/ejecs/255

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies  E-ISSN: 2149-1291

Copyright © FGCU Publishing Inc.

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the 'ejecs.org' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.

   EBSCO_logo_new_120