Views of history and society in Yezidi oral tradition.
The Yezidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious minority living mainly
in Northern Iraq. In the past their religion forbade literacy: thus
their accounts of their history and their descriptions of their society
ha ve been preserved orally. This thesis considers how the Yezidis
use oral literature. or verbal art. to represent themselves and their
past. It is based largely on fieldwork carried out in Northern Iraq.
The theoretical perspective of this work combines elements of
both literary and social studies by considering both text and social
context. The genre of a tradition has major implications for its
content; three genres considered in detail are lyrical song. prose
narrative and extemporised lament. Yezidi discourse about the past
stresses their distinctive identity and their endurance against
adversity and persecution. This is reflected in the oral traditions.
especially in the lyrical song. which is performed at festivals and is
extremely popular; prose narratives of events predating the immediate
past. on the other hand. are in decline. Most love songs and
stories feature historical figures; the performance of lyrical love
songs. many of which depict conflict between the wishes of the
individual and the rules of a society where marriage is arranged.
provides an outlet for the audience's own emotions. Laments are
performed by women. Using traditional imagery. they are a vehicle
for the expression of a variety of emotions by the performer. Their
performance is a social duty and is likely to remain so.
The texts included in this work comprise variants of two
historical themes. Feriq Pa~a and DawLide Dawtid; variants of a
theme of love, Derwe~e C E.,di. and examples of women's lament.
both semi-professional and personal. Some of these were transcribed
from material collected during fieldwork; all were translated for this
thesis. An appendix lists performers and informants.