Persecution of Yazidis by ISIL

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Yazidi persecution by ISIL
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Images from top, left and right: Kurdish Yazidi refugees receiving support from the International Rescue Committee. A member of the U.S. Mt. Sinjar Assessment Team being greeted by locals near Sinjar, Iraq. Bundles of water inside of a C-17 Globemaster III before a humanitarian airdrop by the United States Air Force.
Location Shingal, Iraqi Kurdistan
Target Kurdish Yazidi population
Attack type
Genocide
Deaths ≈894 Kurdish Yazidis killed (Iraqi Government)[1][2]
1,600-1,800+ Yazidis killed (UN)[3]
possibly up to 5,000 Yazidis killed[4]
Non-fatal injuries
(abductions) 5,000-7,000 Yadizis abducted[4](UN)
Assailants  Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Defenders People's Protection Units Flag.svg People's Protection Units[5][6][7]
Kurdistan Workers' Party
Malik Al-Tawus Troop [8] [5][6][7][9]
 Iraqi Kurdistan[10][11]
 United States[12][13][14]
Motive Religious persecution, human trafficking and forced conversions to Islam.[1]

The persecution of Yazidis by ISIL refers to the genocidal persecution of the Yazidi people of Iraq, leading to their exile, the abduction of Yazidi women, and massacres, during what has been called a "forced conversion campaign"[15][16] being carried out in Northern Iraq by the militant organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS).

ISIL's persecution of the Yazidi gained international attention, with the United States taking military action against ISIL militants with airstrikes. Additionally, the US, UK and France made emergency airdrops to the besieged Yazidi and provided weapons to the Kurdish Peshmerga defending them. ISIL's actions against the Yazidi population resulted in tens of thousands of refugees, with thousands killed and thousands kidnapped[1][13][17][18]

Background[edit]

The Yazidis are the latest minority group that ISIL has targeted in its campaign of religious persecution and the killing of those different from themselves and those unwilling to convert to Islam. Other minorities who face danger from ISIL are the Shabaks, whose faith is similar to that of the Yazidis, the Turkmens and the Assyrians.[19]

The Yazidi are monotheists who believe in a benevolent peacock angel (Melek Taus) and whose ancient gnostic faith has elements of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other extremists tend to view the peacock angel as the malevolent archangel Lucifer or Satan and label the Yazidi as 'devil' worshippers.[20][21]

Under Islamic law as observed by ISIL, Yazidis are officially given the choice to convert to Sunni Islam or die. They are not eligible for the jizya tax taken from "People of the Book" by ISIL that would allow them to continue observing their religion.[22] These persecutions and murders are motivated by ISIL's interpretation of verse 9:5 of the Koran.[citation needed]

The Yazidi have been targeted by Sunnis before. Two large-scale massacres were conducted by Ottoman forces in the name of Islam. In 1640, 40,000 Ottoman soldiers attacked Yazidi communities around Mount Sinjar, killing 3,060 Yazidis during battle, then raiding and setting fire to 300 Yazidi villages and murdering 1,000–to 2,000 Yazidis who had taken refuge in caves around the town of Sinjar;[23] in 1892, Sultan Abdulhamid II ordered a campaign of mass conscription or murder of Yazidis as part of his campaign to islamize the Ottoman empire, which also targeted Armenians and other Christians.[24] In 2007, two Yazidi communities were hit by a total of four vehicle bombs carrying two tons of explosives, leaving 796 dead and 1,562 injured.[25]

Violence outbreak[edit]

Main article: Sinjar massacre

Many Yazidis have reported summary executions[26] by ISIL militants, leading to around 50,000–60,000 Yazidis from Sinjar escaping from ISIL to the nearby Sinjar mountain.[13] They were besieged by ISIL on Mount Sinjar, facing starvation and dehydration.[27][28] On 3 August 2014, ISIL militants attacked and took over Sinjar, a Kurdish-controlled town that was home to Yazidis.[29] On 4 August 2014, Prince Tahseen Said, Emir of the Yazidi, issued a plea to world leaders calling for assistance on behalf of the Yazidi facing attack from ISIL.[30]

Massacres, human trafficking and forced exile[edit]

On 5 August 2014, Al Jazeera reported that an ISIL offensive in the Sinjar area of northern Iraq had caused 30,000–50,000 Yazidis to flee into the mountains fearing they would be killed by ISIL. They had been threatened with death if they refused conversion to Islam. A UN representative said that "a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar".[31] More than 12 Yazidi children died of hunger, dehydratation and heat on Jabar Sinjar on 3 August, and two more children and some elderly or people with disabilities died of the same causes on the following day[17] By 5 August, the number of Yazidi children who died of hunger and dehydratation on Jabal Sinjar reached 40; according to reports from survivors, by 6 August 200 children had died from thirst, starvation and heat while fleeing to Jabal Sinjar[17] On 3 August, ten Yazidi families fleeing from al-Qahtaniya area were attacked by ISIL, which killed the men and abducted women and children; 70 to 90 Yazidi men were shot by ISIL members in Qiniyeh village, and 450-500 abducted Yazidi women and girls were taken to Tal Afar; hundreds more to Si Basha Khidri and then Ba’aj.[17] On 4 August ISIL fighters attacked Jabal Sinjar, killed 30 Yazidi men and abducted a number of women; 60 more Yazidi men were killed in the village of Hardan, and their wives and daughters abducted; other Yazidi women were abducted in other villages in the area.[17] On the same day, Yazidi community leaders stated that at lest 200 Yazidi had been killed in Sinjar and 60-70 near Ramadi Jabal.[17] On 6 August day ISIL kidnapped 400 Yazidi women in Sinjar to sell them as sex slaves.[32] According to reports from surviving Yazidi, between 3 and 6 August more than 50 Yazidi were killed near Dhola village, 100 in Khana Sor village, 250-300 in Hardan area, more than 200 on the road between Adnaniya and Jazeera, dozens near al-Shimal village and on the road from Matu village to Jabal Sinjar; about 500 Yazidi women and children were abducted from Ba’aj and more than 200 from Tal Banat.[17] On 10 August 2014, ISIL militants buried alive an undefined number of Yazidi women and children in an attack that killed 500 people, in what has been described as ongoing genocide in northern Iraq.[33]

According to a statement by the Iraqi government on 10 August 2014, hundreds of women were taken as slaves and 500 Yazidis murdered by the ISIL, some of them being buried alive.[1][34][35][36] Those who escaped across the Tigris River into Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria on 10 August gave accounts of how they had seen individuals also attempting to flee who later died.[29][37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44]

A further atrocity was reported against the Yazidi village of Kojo, south of Sinjar, where after the whole population received the customary jihadist ultimatum to convert or be killed, over 80 men were killed and over 100 women abducted on 15 August.[45][46] A witness recounted that like elsewhere the villagers were first converted under duress,[16] but when the village elder refused to convert all men were taken in trucks under the pretext of being led to Sinjar, and gunned down by surprise along the way.[47] According to reports from survivors interviewed by OHCHR, on 15 August the entire male population of the Yazidi village of Khocho, up to 400 men, were rounded up and shot by ISIL, and up to 1000 women and children were abducted; on the same day, up to 200 Yazidi men were reportledy executed for refusing conversion in Tal Afar prison.[17]

In several villages, local Sunnis were reported to have sided with ISIL, betraying Yazidis for slaughter once ISIL arrived, and even possibly colluding in advance with ISIL to lie to Yazidis to lure them into staying put until the jihadis invaded; although there was also one report of Sunnis helping Yazidis escape.[48]

Tens of thousands of Yazidis, besieged by ISIL on mount Sinjar, were able to escape thanks to a multinational rescue operation which involved dropping of supplies on the mountains and evacuation of refugees by helicopters, and to a Peshmerga attack that broke ISIL siege on the mountains. During the rescue operation, on 12 August, an overloaded Iraqi Air Force helicopter crashed on Mount Sinjar, killing Iraqi Air Force Major General Majid Ahmed Saadi (the pilot) and injuring 20 people, including Yazidi Member of Parliament Vian Dakhil and a New York times reporter.[49][50]

Between 24 and 25 August, 14 elderly Yazidi men were executed by ISIL in the Sheikh Mand Shrine, and the Jidala village Yazidi shrine was blown up.[17] On 1 September the Yazidi villages of Kotan, Hareko and Kharag Shafrsky were set afire by ISIL, and on 9 September Peshmerga fighters discovered a mass grave containing the bodies of 14 executed civilians, presumably Yazidi.[17]

According to a OHRCR/UNAMI report date 26 September, by the end of August up to 2,500 Yazidis, mostly women and children, had been abducted, while reports from survivors put the number Yazidis who had been murdered, executed or died of starvation to up to 1,600-1,800 or more[17] In early October, Matthew Barber, a scholar of Yazidi history at the University of Chicago, estimated between 3,000-5,000 Yazidi men had been killed by ISIS, and compiled a list of names of 4,800 Yazidi women and children who had been captured (estimating the total number of abducted people to be possibly up to 7,000).[4]

As of 20 October, 2,000 Yazidis, mainly volunteer fighters, who had remained behind to protect the villages, but also civilians (700 families who had not escaped), were reported as still in Sinjar area, and were forced by ISIL to abandon the last villages in their control, Dhoula and Bork, and to retreat to the Sinjar mountains.[51]

Sold into sexual slavery[edit]

Haleh Esfandiari from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has highlighted the abuse of local women by ISIL militants after they have captured an area. "They usually take the older women to a makeshift slave market and try to sell them. The younger girls ... are raped or married off to fighters", she said, adding, "It's based on temporary marriages, and once these fighters have had sex with these young girls, they just pass them on to other fighters."[52] Speaking of Yazidi women captured by ISIS, Nazand Begikhani said, "These women have been treated like cattle... They have been subjected to physical and sexual violence, including systematic rape and sex slavery. They've been exposed in markets in Mosul and in Raqqa, Syria, carrying price tags."[53] Yazidi girls in Iraq allegedly raped by ISIL fighters have committed suicide by jumping to their death from Mount Sinjar, as described in a witness statement.[54]

A United Nations report issued on 2 October 2014, based on 500 interviews with witnesses, said that ISIL took 450–500 women and girls to Iraq's Nineveh region in August where "150 unmarried girls and women, predominantly from the Yazidi and Christian communities, were reportedly transported to Syria, either to be given to ISIL fighters as a reward or to be sold as sex slaves".[55] In mid-October, the UN confirmed that 5,000–7,000 Yazidi women and children had been abducted by ISIL and sold into slavery.[56][57] In November 2014 The New York Times reported on the accounts given by five who escaped ISIL of their captivity and abuse.[58] In its digital magazine Dabiq, ISIL explicitly claimed religious justification for enslaving Yazidi women.[59][60][61][62][63][64] According to The Wall Street Journal, ISIL appeals to apocalyptic beliefs and claims "justification by a Hadith that they interpret as portraying the revival of slavery as a precursor to the end of the world".[65]

Forced conversion to ISIL Islam[edit]

In an article by The Washington Post, it is stated that there is an estimated 7,000 Yazidis who had been forced to convert to "the Islamic State group’s harsh interpretation of Islam".[66]

International responses[edit]

Demonstration in Paris against persecution of Kurds and Yazidis.

Turkish aid[edit]

Hundreds and possibly thousands of Yazidis have taken refuge in neighboring Turkey, where they are being sheltered in refugee camps in the city of Silopi.[67][68] The Turkish Disaster Relief Agency (AFAD) has begun preparations to set up camps for receiving 6,000 refugees from Iraq.[69] The number of Yazidi refugees in Turkey has reached 14 thousand by August 30.[70]

Turkey has also airdropped humanitarian aid to Yazidi refugees within Iraq.[71]

United States' support[edit]

Video of United States military F/A-18 Hornet airstrike on Islamic State vehicles and militants.
United States Air Force personnel preparing a humanitarian airdrop aboard a C-130 Hercules.

On 7 August 2014, a high-level meeting was held at the White House to discuss the situation. During the meeting, talks included plans for targeted airstrikes on IS militants and emergency air relief for the Yazidis.[72] On 8 August 2014, the US asserted that the systematic destruction of the Yazidi people by the Islamic State is genocide.[73] The US military launched indefinite airstrikes targeting ISIL fighters, equipment and installations, with humanitarian aid support from the UK and France, in order to protect civilians in northern Iraq.[12][74] On 9 August 2014, at approximately 11:20 a.m. ET, the United States began targeted airstrikes on ISIL militants, when two ISIL armored personnel carriers (APCs) firing on Yazidis were destroyed. Three additional airstrikes occurred when additional IS APCs entered the area, and ISIL fighters were targeted near the town of Makhmur, where the group was launching attacks on the outskirts of Irbil. Fighter jets and military drones carried out the airstrikes after President Barack Obama authorized targeted attacks to protect Americans and Iraqi minorities. President Obama also gave an assurance that no troops would be deployed for combat. Along with the airstrikes, the US airdropped 3,800 gallons of water and 16,128 MREs. Following these actions, the United Kingdom and France stated that they also would begin airdrops.[75]

On 10 August 2014, at approximately 2:15 a.m. ET, the US carried out five additional airstrikes on armed vehicles and a mortar position, enabling 20,000–30,000 Yazidi Iraqis to flee into Syria and later be rescued by Kurdish forces. The Kurdish forces then provided shelter for the Yazidis in Dohuk.[13][76]

On 13 August 2014, fewer than 20 United States Special Forces troops stationed in Irbil along with British Special Air Service troops visited the area near Mount Sinjar to gather intelligence and plan the evacuation of approximately 30,000 Yazidis still trapped on Mount Sinjar. One hundred and twenty-nine additional US military personnel were deployed to Irbil to assess and provide a report to President Obama.[18] The United States Central Command also reported that a seventh airdrop was conducted and that to date, 114,000 meals and more than 35,000 gallons of water had been airdropped to the displaced Yazidis in the area.[14]

In a statement on 14 August 2014, The Pentagon said that the 20 US personnel who had visited the previous day had concluded that a rescue operation was probably unnecessary since there was less danger from exposure or dehydration and the Yazidis were no longer believed to be at risk of attack from ISIL. Estimates also stated that 4,000 to 5,000 people remained on the mountain, with nearly half of which being Yazidi herders who lived there before the siege.[77][78][79] However, Kurdish officials and Yazidi refugees stated that thousands of young, elderly and disabled individuals on the mountain were still vulnerable, with the governor of Kurdistan's Dahuk province, Farhad Atruchi, saying that the assessment was "not correct" and that although people were suffering, "the international community is not moving".[78]

International bodies[edit]

  •  United Nations – On 13 August 2014, the United Nations declared the Yazidi crisis a highest-level "Level 3 Emergency", saying that the declaration "will facilitate mobilization of additional resources in goods, funds and assets to ensure a more effective response to the humanitarian needs of populations affected by forced displacements".[79][80]
  •  Arab League – On 11 August 2014, the Arab League accused ISIL of committing crimes against humanity by persecuting the Yazidis.[81][82]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]