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A Yazidi Village In Armenia Keeps Its Identity Alive

Armenia is home to some 40,000 Yazidis, a minority that combines elements of Kurdish culture with Christian, Zoroastrian, and Islamic Sufi belief. They are the largest minority group in mainly homogenous Armenia, which is 98 percent ethnic Armenian and Christian. The Yazidis have endured discrimination and pressure to adapt to modern customs, but their communities remain tight-knit and committed to preserving tradition. (9 PHOTOS)

A Yazidi woman in the Armenian village of Zovuny. Some 40,000 Yazidis live in Armenia; the majority, around 500,000, live in Iraq, and smaller communities live in Russia and Georgia. Tens of thousands more have emigrated to Western Europe.
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A Yazidi woman in the Armenian village of Zovuny. Some 40,000 Yazidis live in Armenia; the majority, around 500,000, live in Iraq, and smaller communities live in Russia and Georgia. Tens of thousands more have emigrated to Western Europe.

A young woman kisses a statue of a peacock angel, a central figure in the Yazidi faith. One of the angel's names is Shaytan, or Satan, which has prompted many Christians and Muslims to call the Yazidis devil-worshippers.
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A young woman kisses a statue of a peacock angel, a central figure in the Yazidi faith. One of the angel's names is Shaytan, or Satan, which has prompted many Christians and Muslims to call the Yazidis devil-worshippers.

A man shows photos of his ancestors. Yazidis speak a dialect of Kurdish and are sometimes described as Kurds who resisted pressure to convert to Islam. They defend their cultural identity as a separate group.
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A man shows photos of his ancestors. Yazidis speak a dialect of Kurdish and are sometimes described as Kurds who resisted pressure to convert to Islam. They defend their cultural identity as a separate group.

A farmer checks one of his sheep in the village of Zovuny.
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A farmer checks one of his sheep in the village of Zovuny.

According to custom, Yazidi girls marry in their early teens. When the Armenian government moved to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18, the Yazidi community protested against what they called an assault on their culture. Lawmakers compromised to allow Yazidi girls to marry at 16.
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According to custom, Yazidi girls marry in their early teens. When the Armenian government moved to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18, the Yazidi community protested against what they called an assault on their culture. Lawmakers compromised to allow Yazidi girls to marry at 16.

Aziz Tamoyan, the director of the Yazidi Union in Armenia
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Aziz Tamoyan, the director of the Yazidi Union in Armenia

A young woman, Liana Amarian, hangs up washing outside her family's stone home.
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A young woman, Liana Amarian, hangs up washing outside her family's stone home.

The community is largely closed to outsiders, who are not allowed to convert to the Yazidi faith.
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The community is largely closed to outsiders, who are not allowed to convert to the Yazidi faith.

Yazidi women prepare dinner at their home.
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Yazidi women prepare dinner at their home.

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