President Obama's decision to use airstrikes against ISIS in northern Iraq has forced this question onto Americans: Who are the Yazidis?

This story, from the data-research site Vox.com, explains in great detail the history of this religious minority and why ISIS wants to cause it so much harm.

According to Vox.com, "Yazidis' religion and social structure sets them apart from the rest of Iraq's Kurds, who are mostly Sunni Muslims. Yazidi theology has many influences, one of which includes some resemblances to the Abrahamic fable of Satan. That is often widely misunderstood in the Middle East as worshipping Satan (it is absolutely not). This misunderstanding of their theology is the "root cause" of Yazidi persecution throughout the centuries.

"Yazidi religion holds that God governs the world through seven angels, the leader of whom is named Malak Tawous. Malak Tawous was the only angel to disobey God's command to bow down to humanity — that is the faint similarity between him and the Abrahamic story of Satan. However, in Yazidi theology, God forgave the disobedience. He saw it as a sign of devotion, and elevated Malak Tawous to the head of the angelic order.

"But many of the Yazidis' neighbors don't understand the crucial difference between their story and the Satan myth."

In truth, the Yazidis' story is even more complicated than it seems from that passage. But since the U.S. military is being used to protect them, Americans should gain at least a Wikipedia-level knowledge of who they are.

-- Phillip Tutor