Who are the Yazidi?

Iraqi Yazidi families who fled the violence in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, are given food at a school where they are taking shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohuk in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, on August 5, 2014. SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

TORONTO – Thousands of people of the Yazidi community remain trapped with limited food and water in the Sinjar mountains of northern Iraq after fleeing the northwestern town of Sinjar, which was seized by militants from the Islamic State last week.

After capturing the northern towns of Sinjar and Zumar on Saturday, the Islamic State issued an ultimatum to the members of the Yazidi community to convert to Islam, pay a religious fine, flee their homes or face death.

As a result, tens of thousands of people from the ancient Yazidi minority fled into the mountains and the Kurdish region.

Most of them made it into the Kurdish safety zone, apart from the group that took the route into the mountains.

According to local media, between 50,000 and 100,000 were stranded in the mountainous region of Kursi and were at risk of dying from hunger and dehydration.

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Footage from a local production company showed thousands of Yazidis, including children, walking through the mountains with no belongings.

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Kurdish Alliance MP Vian Dakhil, the only Iraqi lawmaker representing the Yazidi community, broke down in tears Thursday while addressing the Iraqi parliament on the killing of hundreds of members of her community in northern Iraq by Islamic State militants.

The U.S. administration has strongly condemned the assault on the minorities and have begun delivering humanitarian aid to them.

All this news about the Yazidi community have many wondering who they are.

The Yazidis are an ancient religious sect that believe one God created the world and placed it in the care of seven holy beings or angels.

They are Kurdish-speaking people and their religion is not based on another, such as Islam or Christianty.

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Many outsiders see them as devil-worshipers because they worship fallen angel Malek Tawwus and believe in reincarnation, not heaven or hell.

There are reportedly 700,000 Yazidis around the world, with the bulk living in Iraq.

They believe they are descended only from Adam and not from Eve and avoid wearing the colour blue as it represents Noah’s flood.

In 2007 the Yazidis made headlines when 17-year-old member Du’a Khalil Aswad was stoned to death in an honour killing after she allegedly converted to Islam and married a Muslim.

The Yazidis have been persecuted for many years over their beliefs and claim they have survived 72 genocides.

-With files from The Associated Press

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