Nowadays – and especially whenever time brings difficulties – there is an increasing rejection, even denigration and insult of our dignitaries of the Pirs and Sheikhs among Yazidi. Often, if not always, this is the case among Mirîds when historical knowledge about these religious dignitaries is lacking. For one thing is certain: without Pîrs and Sheikhs we Yazidi would not have been able to resist for 1400 years and would most probably have been wiped out, assimilated and above all Islamized.

The history of the Yazidi has shown again and again that it was these dignitaries who again and again, in the truest sense of the word, put their heads on the line for our faith. In addition we mention a few sheiks and pirs who saved their people, the Yazidi, from disaster at the risk of their lives. It is not even necessary to mention Saint Sheikh Sherfedîn, who is still today a figurehead of the Yazidi resistance and the resurrection of our people.

Sheikh Yezdîn (16th century)

The power of Sheikh Yezdîn can only be seen from the fact that he ruled over the powerful city and region of Aleppo (Syria) from 1516 until his death. With his diplomatic skills, but also through his solid military formation, he saved the Yezdîns from much bloodshed and saved them from complete Islamization by the sword.

Mîr Hussein Beg Dasinî (16th century)

Mîr Hussein Beg Dasinî united three great principalities among himself, which considerably improved the political and military position of the Yazidis for years and enabled him to fend off several campaigns of Arab-Kurdish Muslims. Only through active financial and military support of the Muslim armies by the Ottomans, he could be disempowered. In the course of this conspiracy he was executed by the Ottomans. His influence, however, remained a protecting hand for the Yazidi beyond his death.

Êzidî Mîrza, Mîrza Dasinî (1600 – 1651)

One of the most legendary and influential Yazidi in the middle of the Ottoman-Islamic sphere of influence was probably Sheikh Êzidî Mîrza or Mîrza Dasinî. He distinguished himself in the wars between the Ottoman Empire and the Safavids as commander of Yazidi troops and was honored for his courage and achievements. He was even awarded the honorary title “Pasha” and was chosen as the ruler of Mosul, which at that time was mainly inhabited by Yazidi. Fortune did not resist for long, and after a year the Ottomans deprived him of his power again because of his non-Islamic descent and tried to subjugate the Yazidi again in the region. Thereupon Êzidî Mîrza rebelled against the Ottomans, defended himself against them and went into battle for his people and finally gave his life in 1651 in one of the numerous battles he fought.

Sheikh Mîrza Anqosî (18th/19th century)

Sheikh Mîrza Anqosî is one of the most famous Yazidi personalities of recent history. To this day, his heroic deeds are kept alive through songs and stories: through his commitment to the Yazidis in a hostile time and region, he was betrayed to the Ottomans by Kurdish Islamists, and he was imprisoned in Diyarbekir, causing outrage in Shingal, Sheikhan, Khaltan and the Caucasus. Despite torture, beatings and starvation he managed to escape from the dungeons. Left on his own, he fled in enemy territory to the wintery mountains, where he was finally found and killed.

Mîr Alî Beg the Great (died 1832)

Mîr Alî Beg was the secular head of the Yazidi. When the Kurdish prince Mohammed Rewanduzî Beg attacked Sheikhan, murdered thousands of Yazidi and enslaved about 10,000 Yazidi children and women, Mîr Alî Beg started one defence attempt after the other in spite of hopeless chances. In one battle, Mîr was finally captured by Mohammed Rewanduzî. Thereupon a martyrdom for weeks began for the secular head of the Yazidis: he was mercilessly tortured in order to force him to accept Islam, since the Muslims, with the Yazidi head as convert, would have converted almost all Yazidis to Islam. But Mîr Alî Beg refused to give up his faith and held his head out for the last stroke of the sword.

Thereupon he was brought to a valley with a waterfall, in today’s Erbil/Hewlêr. There he took his last breath before his murder. Until today this valley with the waterfall, which is a tourist attraction and reminds of his courage and loyalty, is called “Gelî Alî Beg”, which means “Valley of Alî Beg”. With him the last independent Yazidi prince disappeared.

Neam Khatun (died 1832)

Neam Khatun was the wife of the last Yazidi prince Mîr Alî Beg. When he was murdered by the Kurdish prince Mohammed Rewanduzî and she heard about it, she swore revenge. She went alone and with a hidden dagger to Rewanduzî. When she met him at his court, she demanded the mortal remains of her husband from him – and seized this chance for revenge longing for it: she attacked the prince with her dagger, but could only slightly wound him. Because she left a great impression on the Kurdish prince, he let her go unpunished and gave her the body of Mîr Alî Beg. Furthermore, Rewanduzî ordered some of his fighters to accompany Neam Khatun as carriers of the body.

But Neam Khatun still longed for revenge for the enslaved and defiled Yazidi children and women and for her killed husband. Arriving in Schingal, she mobilized men to fight against Rewanduzîs troops in the region and had initial success. However, Rewanduzî again went to Shingal with a superior number of troops, defeated Neam Khatun’s troops and had them executed by hanging.

Mîr Hussein Beg (died 1879)

Mîr Hussein Beg was the son of the executed Mîr Alî Beg the Great and the Neam Khatun, who led a vendetta against the Muslim Kurds. Before Neam Khatun started her deadly campaign, she took her son Hussein Beg to safety in the Schingal Mountains. Years later and as an adult man, Mîr Hussein Beg became the new head of the Yazidi. He distinguished himself as an outstanding strategist: shortly before his appointment as head, hardly anyone outside the Yazidi community knew him, but he quickly allied himself with the Ottomans in his function as head of the Yazidis to take military action against the murderers of his parents. Thus he provided his community with a respite from oppression and persecution.

Mîr Alî Beg (19th and 20th century)

Mîr Alî Beg was the son of Mîr Hussein Beg and his successor as the secular head of the Yazidi. When the Yazidis were attacked without warning between 1891 and 1893 by the Kurdish pasha of the Ottoman Empire Omar Wahbi Pasha (Farik Pasha), Mîr and his wife Meyan Khatun were captured. At the same time Islamist Kurds also took the sanctuary of Lalish and misused it as a Koran school.

Mîr Alî Beg was tortured to accept Islam. But he remained steadfast. As a result, he miraculously escaped being murdered and was exiled. After a few years, the Yazidis were able to mobilize in Schingal and expel Wahbi Pasha and his son from there. Mîr Alî Beg returned to Lalish and through diplomacy and much bribery he was able to win Lalish back and restored the sanctuary again.

Meyan Khatun (19th and 20th century)

Meyan Khatun was the wife of Mîr Alî Beg, who, as a woman in a time far away from women’s rights and feminism in a patriarchal society, could not only assert herself as head of the Yazidis but was without exception accepted by the Yazidis as worldly head. She was a skilful leader who knew how to unite different quarrelling Yazidic tribes and to strengthen the cohesion between them. For 20 years she was de facto at the head of the Yazidi society and fended off several Arab-Kurdish Islamization campaigns against the Yazidis.

Sources:

Ismail, Alia Bayezid: „Ihre Spuren sind bis heute nicht verwischt: Hussein Beg al-Dassini und Ali Beg, Sohn des Hassan Beg“, in: „Yezidische Helden – Mêrxasên Êzîdiyan“, Oldenburg, 2011, S. 44 – 89.

Guest, John S.: „The Yezidis: A Study in Survival”, London, 1987.

Brennan, Shane und Herzog, Mar: „Turkey and the Politics of National Identity: Social, Economic and Cultural Transformation”, London, 2014.

Acikyildiz, Birgul: „The Yezidis: The History of a Community, Culture and Religion”, London, 2014.

Prof. Barb, Heinrich Alfred: „Geschichtliche Skizze der in der Chronik von Scheref behandelten dreiunddreissig verschiedenen kurdischen Fürstengeschlechter“, 1856.

Azad, Abu: „Das Land der Dassini – ein Symbol des Widerstandes gegen Unterdrückung und Verfolgung“, in: „Yezidische Helden – Mêrxasên Êzîdiyan“, Oldenburg, 2011, S. 13-20.

Hecî, Bedel Feqîr: „Hevrikya Şemsanî, Adanî u Qatanyê li ser mîryatîya Êzidîyan“, Zeitrschrift „Êzdînas 1 – Kovara Navenda Lêkolînên Êzdînasiyê“, Dengê Êzîdiyan, Oldenburg, 2014.

Dr. Reşo, Xelîl Cindi (Dr. Khalil Jindy Rashow): „Mirgeha Şêxan û Şingal û Kilîs“, Zeitschrift „Roj“, 6. Ausgabe, 2003.