Perspective: The Devil worshippers of Iraq
Above: The Yazidi complex at Lalish, Iraq, which they call the place of the beginning of the universe. Left: Melek Taus, the peacock angel who was tossed out of heaven after leading a rebellion against God.
I'm in a community hall, on the outskirts of Celle, a north German town. On the walls are pictures of dark blue peacocks. Sitting at various tables around the room are dozens of Devil worshippers. At least, that's what some people call them.
Though we don't know it yet, right now several suicide bombs are going off near Mosul in Iraq, killing maybe 400. The victims belong to the same faith as those gathered here today.
They are Yezidi. And I'm here to unearth the reality of their fascinating religion. Why do they have such troubled relations with outsiders? Do they really worship the Devil?
The Yezidi of Celle are one of the largest groups of their sect outside the homeland of Kurdish Iraq. There may be 7,000 in this small town. Yezidi across the world number between 400,000 and 800,000.
Today the Yezidi in Celle don't seem keen to talk. I'm not surprised: I have been warned about their wariness of strangers, born of centuries of appalling persecution.
Eventually a dark, thickset man turns to me. He points to one of the peacocks on the wall: "That is Melek Taus, the peacock angel. We worship him." He sips his tea, and adds: "Ours is the oldest religion in the world. Older than Islam; older than Christianity."
Read the rest at the Telegraph