Holy Temple of Lalish

This is Tariq, a kind Yazidi man from Sinjar who fled his home in 2014, at the holy temple of Lalish. Right now one of his sons is at a refugee camp in Greece, but he and the rest of his family are living in the Rwandz camp built by The Refuge Initiative.

The Yazidis are a small Iraqi ethnic minority whose ancient faith is a largely misunderstood blend of Assyrian and Mesopotamian pre-Islamic traditions, Christianity, and Islam. For centuries they have been a target of hatred for their reputation as 'devil worshipers.’

In 2014 ISIS raided the Sinjar region, abducting 7,000 women and girls as sex slaves and massacring 5,000 civilians who refused to convert, which led to the expulsion of nearly 500,000 Yazidis from their ancestral land. Thousands were entrapped on nearby Mt. Sinjar—the highest peak is considered to be the final resting place of Noah’s Ark.

Back in May I went with Tariq and a few of our friends to Lalish, the holy temple of the Yazidi faith in Dohuk—a place all Yazidis are expected to pilgrimage to during their lifetime. Tariq and other Yazidis kissed the doorframes, walls, and grounds of the shrine. They asked us to step deliberately over the all door thresholds for reasons I never quite understood. It was the only ritual we were asked to observe, aside from leaving our shoes at the entrance to the grounds.

Baptismal pool at Lalish Temple

Baptismal pool at Lalish Temple

Barefoot at Lalish

Barefoot at Lalish