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Why Is ISIS Targeting The Ancient Yazidi People?

ISIS is trying to wipe out the Yazidi people in northern Iraq in what some have dubbed an attempted genocide.

Why Is ISIS Targeting The Ancient Yazidi People?
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As ISIS continues to rampage across Iraq, they've saved the worst of their rage for an ancient religious group called the Yazidi. 

Never heard of them? Well, you're not alone. Although they've been around since the 11th century, you won't find many of them outside northern Iraq.     

But recently the Yazidi have dominated headlines as they claim the dubious distinction of being the people ISIS seems to hate the most. 

Normally, when ISIS conquers a town, the residents are given a choice: Convert, pay a fine, flee, or be killed.

Yet the Yazidi aren't given those options — they're just killed, as one Yezidi member of the Iraqi parliament explains:     

"Mr. Speaker, we are being slaughtered under the banner of 'there is no god but Allah.' Mr. Speaker, until now 500 Yazidi men have bee slaughtered." 

Which meant that when ISIS attacked the Yazidi town of Sinjar, its 40,000 residents had nowhere to go

“Trapped on a mountaintop with a stark dilemma: Leave and face slaughter, or stay and die of thirst."

But why the hate in the first place? The reason goes to the very core of Yazidi belief. 

The Yazidi religion is monotheistic, but is linked not to Judaism, Christianity, or Islam but to Zoroastrianism — an Iranian religion considered one of the oldest in the world. (Video via Rusisorabji/Youtube)

And although the Yazidi believe in a single God, their God has entrusted the earth to others — prime among them the angel Melek Taus‚Äč.

So what's the problem? In arabic, the words "Melek Taus" happens to be the name of the devil in Islamic theology— leading to the perception that the Yazidi are worshippers of Satan. 

The perception has been hard to shake, even among Americans“President Obama will fight for Satan-worshippers, but he will not fight for Christians."

They aren't devil worshippers — which is cold comfort to the Yazidi now. 

A Kurdish official called the plight of the Yazidi an "existential" threat to the ancient sect, who number only 700,000 strong. 

And the Christian Science Monitor reports the UN is already calling the situation in Sinjar a genocide.  

One Yazidi leader put the crisis in a historical perspective, telling the Washington Post"In our history, we have suffered 72 massacres ... We are worried Sinjar could be a 73rd.”

This video includes images from Getty Images.