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Op-Ed: Yazidis: An Entire People on the Brink of Annihilation

An entire religion is at risk of being wiped out, as the threat of genocide looms in Iraq. The international community must help.
Published: Sunday, August 10, 2014 4:50 PM


On the 3rd of August, at around 1 am, terrorists from the Islamic State (IS) started a massive offensive on Kurdish Yazidi villages in Sinjar (Kurdish: Shengal) in Iraq’s northwestern Ninawa governorate.

The town and surrounding villages were mainly inhabited by Kurdish Yazidis with an Arab and Assyrian minority. The area was protected by Kurdish Peshmerga forces but they withdrew from Sinjar to the city of Zakho in autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan in the north. However, as the Islamic State also had initiated attacks on the town of Zummar, the Peshmerga were rerouted to Zakho through Rojava, the recently declared Kurdish autonomous areas in Syria. Those injured were taken to hospitals by the YPG (Kurdish army in Rojava).

More than a dozen Peshmerga who had refused to leave were martyred during the fighting, or executed after capture. Aside from a couple of hundred armed men, the Yazidis in the area were unarmed with no means to protect themselves. As IS marched towards the town of Sinjar, they clashed with armed Yazidi civilians, most of whom died in battle. Men, women, children and the elderly desperately tried to escape, some 250,000 fled to Kurdish controlled areas up north and 60,000 yezidis (25,000 children) fled to Mount Sinjar. During their advance, IS terrorists began to destroy holy sanctuaries of Shiites and Yazidis.

YPG immediately mobilized and took over some of the areas previously under Peshmerga control. They also climbed the mountain to protect those hiding there, and have since been preparing a safe route to Rojava for the refugees. On the 5th of August, some 300 HPG fighters (military wing of the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK) also arrived at the Mount Sinjar area to aid in the defense. The PKK has said it will not allow another Yezidi genocide to happen. There have been 72 genocide attempts against the Yezidis throughout history.

After 3 days, more than 70 Yazidi children and around 40 elderly had died of thirst on the mountains where they sought refuge. Many more are feared dead now. More than a 1,000 Yazidi men have been executed, either by decapitation or hanging. Around 500 Yazidi women were taken to Mosul (under IS control) to either be sold as slaves or to be forced to marry Jihadis. Thousands more are missing and in many places locals have reported massacres taking place. Many locals are reporting cases of forced conversions and rape.

The Yazidi Kurds, who number roughly 500,000 have had a tough history in the Middle East. During the Armenian genocide some 500,000 Yazidis, then numbering in the 750,000, were also massacred, expelled from Turkey to Europe or the Soviet Union.

Today another massacre is taking place and the world remains silent. As hours go by, more and more children are dying of thirst and hunger. An entire religion is about to be wiped out, and we beg the international community to provide humanitarian support & protect this fragile minority.