Turkish municipality erases sacred Yazidi peacock symbol from logo

Turkish municipality erases sacred Yazidi peacock symbol from logo
Yazidis speak of having survived 74 genocides, the latest of which was committed by the Islamic State group.
3 min read
04 July, 2019
The ancient town is home to three major religions [Getty/Midyat Municipality]

A local authority in Turkey has sparked outrage after removing a Yazidi religious symbol from its logo.

The Yazidis, a small minority ethno religious community in the Middle East, have long been persecuted in the region as "devil worshippers". 

Yazidis speak of having survived 74 genocides throughout the history of their community, the most recent of which being the killing of around 5,000 Yazidis, the forced conversion of thousands more and the abduction of hundreds of women and girls into sexual slavery by the Islamic State group. 

The former logo of the municipality of Midyat, a multicultural town in Turkey's Kurdish-majority southeast, contained symbols from the area's three prevailing religions - a church steeple, a mosque minaret and a peacock, symbolising the Yazidi faith.

But it has now been changed to omit the sacred peacock symbol, local media reported.

Melek Taus, often translated into English as the Peacock Angel, is one of the central sacred figures of the Yazidi religion. 

In the Yazidi tradition, God created the world and entrusted its care to seven holy figures. The most sacred of these figures is the Peacock Angel, who was said to have been created from God's own "illumination".

The perception by some Muslims of Yazidis as "devil worshippers" originates from the similarities between the story of the Peacock Angel and Iblis in the Quran. Many Yazidis, however, have said the Peacock Angel is more akin to the figure of Gabriel.

Midyat Municipality's former logo [Midyat Municipality]

The municipality council of Midyat, controlled by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), voted to change the logo this week.

The formerly colourful logo was altered to a black and gold silhouette image featuring a steeple, a dome and minaret, as well as two birds and a star.

Midyat, located in Turkey's southeastern Mardin province, is a historically multicultural city.

Until the 1915 Assyrian genocide, Midyat was a majority-Assyrian area. However, the town still maintains a mixed population of Kurds, Turks, Mhallami Arabs, Yazidis and Assyrians.

Turkey's Yazidi population is extremely small, with only around 5,000 Yazidis remaining in the country due to migration motivated by the civil war.

Midyat Municipality's new logo [Midyat Muncipality]

"This lifestyle has been going on for thousands of years. To date, there has been no problem between these peoples except for the interventions of the central authority. The Syriacs were forced to migrate due to these external interventions, then the Yazidis faced the same situation," he described.

"Assyrians and Yazidis faced extinction in Midyat. Today we are experiencing the same thing again."

The MP urged the municipality to respect the area's multicultural, multilingual heritage. 

But AKP Midyat Mayor Veysi Sahin claimed the new logo still represented the area's three prevailing "civilisations" - Islam, Christiany and Yazidism.

The domed building at the center of the logo is meant to represent a Yazidi temple, the mayor explained. Many Yazidi temples, however, have cone-shaped roofs.

The doves symbolise "love and respect", Sahin added.