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Lalish Temple

Date of Submission: 15/04/2020
Criteria: (iii)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities of Iraq
State, Province or Region:
Nineveh Province
Ref.: 6467

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Lalish Temple located in Sheikhan district in Nineveh Governorate, about (60) km northwest of Nineveh, and about (40 km) from Dohuk Governorate in northern Iraq. It is located in a mountain strait surrounded by mountains on its three sides and the road leading to it is a winding road in mountain valley.

Lalish Temple considered the main temple of the Ayzidi religion, which is known in Arabic sources as (Yazidis) .. Yezidis visit it from all over the world, and it is a unique spot where silence and calm , fresh air, greenery, trees and domes above the heights that extend on both sides of the holy valley,are distributed among them pictures and scenes talking and conveying to us various stories and each story has a historical and religious background related to the Yazidi religion.

Many travelers and writers who wrote the history of this temple have provided many interpretations of its origin and foundation, so we find the archaeological researcher Abd al-Raqeeb Yusuf describing the temple as the oldest existing site in the area . The researcher relies in this saying to the presence of many symbols of the Mithraic religion in it, as this statement is confirmed by some Yezidi researchers, as they consider the Yazidi religion as an extension of the Mithraic religion, as it consists of races and religious traditions similar to what existed in Mithraism.

Also, the prevailing belief about Mithraism is that it is only the result of the blending of the beliefs of Mesopotamia and Persia, where the Iranian God (Mithra) was embodied with Shamash, the sun god in Mesopotamia.

Lalish Temple, which includes the tomb of Sheikh Uday bin Musafir al-Hakari, is a rectangular building measuring (30 x 12) m. The temple has been exposed to expansion and increases during its long life.

The main entrance of the temple constructed of square-shaped stones and in close dimensions. Its wall rises to more than four meters and a large door made of beech wood dating back more than forty years, according to those in charge of the temple, and to the right side of the main temple door, where the entrance to the temple rises above the image of the black serpent sanctified by the Yezidis.

In front of temple gate , a large Iwan is spread with an open square, which has been paved with stones of one size.

The Iwan of the temple is surrounded by seven pillars built of stone at a height of five meters where each column represents one of the seven angels in Yezidi religion holiness, and not far from the entrance there is a pool of water called (Nasir Din pool - A guardian of Yazidis).

On both sides of the entrance there are several sites (lamps) It light every Wednesday of the week (which is the holy day for Yazidis), and then the tomb of (Sheikh Uday bin Musafir Al Hakari) located.

The temple complex covers a group of domes, and the domes of the temple are characterized by a conical shape that is not represented in Iraq by a temple or a grave. The conical domes are policed into straight edges that join from top to bottom within a circle that is based on a base that represents the earth, all of which receive the sun's rays, so Yazidis called the holy place (Mekka Rakka) and the word means the home of the sun.

Lalish temple is a rare artistic style in architecture and building, in which Seljuk art as well as the old eastern mixes with local heritage in terms of large buildings, in addition to the presence of remnants of very old signs and symbols dating back to the first centuries BC that are drawn on the outer wall and can be observed (Eye of the sun, Open ring,Other signs that are not noticeable unless you look at them well).

A lot of conservation work was done for the temple, the last of which was in 1979, and one of the serious threats that the temple faced and happened to it when the terrorist organization (ISIS) occupied the Sinjar district in June 2014.

In addition to the terrorist massacres carried out by the organization against the Yazidi population in the region, the terrorist organization destroyed (39) dome buildings and shrines belonging to the Yezidis.

With the liberation of the region, efforts are being made to rebuild and rehabilitate the sites that were damaged as a result of the existence of the terrorist organization. Campaigns for the conservation and rehabilitation of the Lalish Temple were carried out, with local support and financing from private sector.

The German company Bosnick has also carried out conservation and restoration work for the temple. Also, efforts focused now to establish infrastructure facilities for the site, especially since the temple is visited by many people from countries in the world and in the temple is the tomb of Sheikh Uday bin Musafir, holy to followers of the religion, as it is the seat of the Spiritual Council of the Yazidi religion in the world. Where the Yezidis perform pilgrimage at least once during their lives to Lalish temple, where the pilgrimage lasts for six days.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The concept of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) has been defined in paragraph (77) of the Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, and the process of preparing to demonstrate the Outstanding Universal Value is of equal importance to planning and management processes for world heritage sites that aim to maintain those values contained in the site, especially those that have been identified as Outstanding.

Lalish Temple is considered one of the main landmarks that formed the Yazidi religion, which is the only spiritual center in the world for this religion, and the scene that dominated the site for several centuries is still present with clear manifestations through the annual pilgrimage to the Yazidis from all parts of the world. 

Criterion (iii): Yazidi religion is a sustainable civilization witness and a cultural tradition of the Yezidi religion that has emerged from ancient times and has continued without any distortion until now, but its followers adhered strongly to it.

It is considered one of the oldest ancient Eastern religions and its followers believe that their religions originated from the ancient Babylonian religion that appeared thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia, and it is one of the religions that graduated from natural worship to monotheism and has its own beliefs and rituals that differ from the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam known as heavenly religions.

Yazidis will remain and renewed in the hearts of its adherents, who have preserved them throughout this time.

In addition to drawing the attention of those interested in ancient religious studies and science of history, religion was able to find sympathy based on the human right to choose his religion and belief through respect many countries for human rights, and it is a sure opportunity to prove that Yazidis are among the ancient religions that deserve respect, study and attention.

The Yazidi religion remained steadfast, despite its exposure to campaigns of skepticism, accusations and slanders, which led to many campaigns of genocide. Yazidis are an important ethnic component of the Iraqi mosaic through its long march and international covenants that affirmed the rights of indigenous peoples, including the United Nations Declaration of September 13, 2007 which came in (and realizing the urgent need to respect and promote the natural rights of indigenous peoples derived from their political, economic and social structures and their cultures ,spiritual traditions, history, and its philosophies, especially their rights to their lands, territories, and resources.

Criterion (vi): The religious beliefs that accompanied the Yazidi sect have been associated with the sect over her long march, and these beliefs are still prevalent and contributed to the spread of Yazidi doctrine and religion in the country during its long life, and this was reflected in the literary and artistic productions of the Yazidi writers.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

In our contemporary world, and through the development of concepts through which world heritage sites are managed and for the purpose of reaching an acceptable and successful nomination file, it is no longer sufficient for the site to meet some of the criteria intended for the site's inclusion on the World Heritage List that the property needs to demonstrate the necessary authenticity and integrity.

The integrity conditions, as stated in the guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention (paragraph 78), which is a measure of the extent to which the property retains its integrity and completeness of its characteristics. Lalish Temple has maintained integrity and authenticity through the following points;

The site still contains and preserves the elements through which it expressed its outstanding universal value (OUV).

As for the site's size and area, it was occupied by other landmarks and facilities as a religious site filled with activity and movement.

Lalish Temple as a historical site embodies the basic value of the traditional Yezidi religion - which includes the temple and tomb of Sheikh Uday. The property covers all the necessary elements to show its historical value. The temple also reflects the supreme position of the Yazidi religion in the traditional Yezidi culture. Lalish Temple is considered in all its details has fulfilled the condition of authenticity through;

Shape and Design: The shape of the site has not changed during its long history , despite the additions that took place on the site

Factors affecting the site: The instability in Iraq and the occupation of terrorism forces of the site were among the factors that affected the site a lot, and now the site is blessed with a state of security and stability and towards carrying out many conservation and rehabilitation projects in the site.

As for the site's authenticity, it can be said to reflect the conservation and protection of the property, which was never disrupted in the history of the area due to the great importance of the property, and the traditional methods of intervention in the field of conservation. Accordingly, the authenticity of the property is high in terms of design, used building materials, and preserving the historical state and as an exhibitor of spiritual values, all of which are sincere expressions of the Yezidi religion. All of these cases contribute to the authenticity of the site.

As for the management and protection of the site, it has continue through the ages, being a religious site for the Yazidi community and the main pilgrimage center for them, so the site has given a lot of attention, whether it is at the level of protection or management.

Comparison with other similar properties

By searching for a site that can be compared to the Lalish Temple and many temples and monasteries that can be compared, the choice was made for the Confucius Temple and his  tomb in the People's Republic of China.                                

It is the temple of the family of the great philosopher, politician, and teacher Confucius (6th to 5th century BC). The temple was built in (478) BC and destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries and today it is more than a hundred buildings. The cemetery contains the tombs of Confucius and more than 100,000 of his descendants.                                                          

The site inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1994 according to the criteria (i),(iv) and (iv).                                          

As for the Lalish temple, it is distinguished from the Confucius Temple that it has its followers and disciples and they are today spread all over the world while we see the followers of Confucianism defined in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.       

Although Confucianism became the official doctrine of the Chinese state, this did not make its way until it became a religion in the well-known sense, it lacked the existence of basic structures and a layer of priestly (clergy).

On the contrary, the Yazidi religion has had its structures and councils and maintained its existence throughout its long history, despite campaigns of skepticism and extermination, so the Lalish Temple is a living model of the places of worship to which its followers adhered, and they now have what is called the Supreme Yezidi Spiritual Council in Iraq.                             

Unlike the Lalish temple, the temples built in honor of Confucius were not places for grouping cults of affiliated followers, but public buildings dedicated to annual ceremonies, especially on Confucius' birthday. Because of the fundamental worldly (non-religious) nature of this philosophy, all attempts aimed at making Confucianism a religious faith have failed while the Yezidi religion is increasingly attached to its adherents.