Yezidis elect new spiritual leader over a month after passing of predecessor

Ali Elias Haji Nasir will be inaugurated as the new Baba Sheikh at a special ceremony next week at the Lalish Temple.
Ali Elias Haji Nasir, the new spiritual leader of the Yazidi peoples. (Photo: Archive)
Ali Elias Haji Nasir, the new spiritual leader of the Yazidi peoples. (Photo: Archive)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The ethnoreligious Yezidi (Ezidi) minority group on Saturday elected Ali Elias Haji Nasir as their new top spiritual leader, also known as Baba Sheikh, succeeding the late Khartu Hajji Ismael, who passed away early last month.

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The announcement came in Kurdistan Region’s Duhok city, after days of discussions on the matter among senior Yezidi figures. This followed a forty-day mourning period for the passing of the previous leader.

The choice is made after “consultations between family members, Yazidi tribes, and the Yazidi Supreme Spiritual Council, headed by Yazidi Mir (prince) Hazem Tahsin Saeed Beg,” Hadi Baba Sheikh, the younger brother of Khartu Hajji Ismael and then manager of his office, told Middle East Eye (MEE) in October.

Ali Elias Haji Nasir will be inaugurated at a special ceremony next Wednesday at the Lalish Temple, the minority group’s holiest site of worship.

He was born in 1979 in Sheikhan district, Duhok province. He is married with four children; he is also the son of a former Baba Sheikh who held the post from 1978 to 1995.

The Ezidi Prince

In July 2019, Hazim Tahseen Beg was inaugurated as the new Mir, or prince, of the Ezidis. This was months after his father, who previously held the post, passed away at 86. The post-holder has three deputies and heads the four-member supreme council.

Related Article: New leader of Yezidis sworn in at ceremony in Kurdistan Region

The new Baba Sheikh “should be familiar with teachings of the religions of Yazidism, Islam and Christianity, to be a respected and wise man, and friendly to people,” Mir Tahsin Beg told MEE in October.

The emergence of the Islamic State and its violent assault on the Ezidi-majority city of Sinjar (Shingal) in 2014 led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands in the religious sect. Most of them fled to the Kurdistan Region, while others resettled in neighboring countries in the region or in Western states.

Others were not as lucky and remained stranded in the war zone where they experienced atrocities and mass executions at the hands of the extremist group for years. Militants subjected women and girls to sexual slavery, kidnapped children, forced religious conversions, executed scores of men, and abused, sold, and trafficked women across areas they controlled in Iraq and Syria in actions now widely recognized as genocide.

There are about one million Ezidis worldwide, with almost half of them living in Iraq and the autonomous Kurdistan Region.

Editing by Khrush Najari