Spiritual leader of Yazidi religious minority dies in Iraq at 87


The spiritual leader of Iraq's Yazidi religious minority, Baba Sheikh (pictured above), has died in the Iraqi autonomous region of Kurdistan, his son Eido Baba Sheikh said on Friday.

He passed away on Thursday at a hospital in Kurdistan's capital Erbil at the age of 87, Eido said.

"His death will leave a big vacuum in the Yazidi community," Eido told dpa. He did not indicate the cause of death.

Baba Sheikh was hospitalised on Tuesday for kidney and heart problems, Kurdish news portal Rudaw reported, citing a Kurdish official.

The spiritual leader of Iraq's Yazidi religious minority, Baba Sheikh (photo: Yunus Keles/AA/picture-alliance)

Baba Sheikh, whose real name was Khurto Hajji Ismail, became the Yazidi spiritual leader in 1995.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Yazidi activist Nadia Murad paid homage to him in a tweet. "Today, the Yazidi community lost a beacon of light with the passing Baba Sheikh," Murad wrote.

"The Yazidi spiritual leader embodied our values of wisdom, kindness & tolerance. He led the community by example & treated Yazidi survivors with love & respect. He will be forever missed," she added.

The Yazidis follow an ancient religion that combines Zoroastrian, Gnostic and Islamic elements. They have long suffered persecution, partly because aspects of their faith have been misinterpreted as devil worship.

Islamic State militants massacred Yazidi men and boys and enslaved women and children in 2014 when they overran the Sinjar area of Iraq, where many members of the minority lived. (dpa)

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