Sinjar massacre

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Sinjar massacre
Part of the Northern Iraq offensive (August 2014), and the American-led intervention in Iraq (2014–present)
Mountainside fields.jpg
An image of the mountainside of Mount Sinjar
Date August 2014
Location Şingal (Sinjar) District, Nineveh Governorate, Iraq
Result ISIL captures Sinjar[1] and massacres up to 5,000 Yazidis;[2] U.S. airstrikes and Kurdish forces break the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar on 13 August[3][4][5]
Belligerents

 Iraqi Kurdistan

Malik Al-Tawus Troop [6] Kurdistan Workers' Party[4][7][5][8][9]
People's Protection Units Flag.svg People's Protection Units[4][7][5][10]
 United States[11]
 United Kingdom[12][13][14]

Supported by:

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
Commanders and leaders
Maj. Gen. Majid Abdul Salam Ashour 
(Iraqi Air Force)[16]

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Leader)
Abu Ayman al-Iraqi (Head of Military Shura)[17]

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Muslim al-Turkmani (Deputy, Iraq)
Casualties and losses
2,000 killed (500 in Sinjar city; per Yazidis)[18][19]
5,000 killed (per U.N.)[2]
50,000 displaced[20]

The Sinjar massacre was the killing of 2,000[18]–5,000[2] Yazidi men in the city of Sinjar and the surrounding area in the Nineveh Governorate, during August 2014, after ISIL attacked and captured Sinjar and other neighboring towns. Thousands of Yazidi women were sold off by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and 70 Yazidi children were killed while fleeing the ISIL threat. Sinjar (Kurdish: شنگال Şingal) was one of many towns captured during ISIL's offensive in August 2014.

On 8 August 2014, the U.S. reacted with airstrikes on ISIL units and convoys in the area, which led to a war of several countries against ISIL. Assistance of Kurds and Americans enabled the majority of 50,000 Yazidis fled into the Sinjar Mountains to be evacuated.

Background[edit]

Sinjar was predominantly inhabited by Yazidis before the ISIL takeover.

In June 2014, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) declared a so-called "Caliphate" in areas of Syria and Iraq. ISIL then also conquered significant territories in northern Iraq. While Iraqi federal military forces fled for the advancing ISIL troops, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters took over the control of a wide territory in northern Iraq.[21][22]

ISIL takeover[edit]

On the morning of 3 August, ISIL forces advanced into and captured Sinjar,[1] as well as the general Sinjar area.[23]

As ISIL attacked Sinjar and neighboring cities, 250 men Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces in Sinjar withdrew in the night from those cities, leaving the civilians behind without warning.[24] ISIL also destroyed a Shiite shrine in Sinjar, executed resisters, and demanded the residents to swear allegiance or be killed.[1]

In surrounding villages, many residents fled immediately.[23] ISIL fighters asked the remaining Yazidis to convert to Islam or face death, Yazidis reported, and ISIL Twitter accounts posted images of murders on individuals in the Sinjar area.[23]

Almost 200,000 civilians, mostly Yazidis, managed to flee from the fighting in Sinjar city,[1][25] about 50,000 of them fled into the Sinjar Mountains,[25] where they were trapped without food, water or medical care,[19] facing starvation and dehydration.[25]

Tahseen Said, the world leader, “Prince”, of the Yazidis, issued an appeal on 3 August 2014 to world leaders, asking for humanitarian help in the plight and difficult conditions of his people being attacked by ISIL.[26] On 4 August, Kurdish fighters purportedly battled ISIL to retake Sinjar.[19]

Refugees’ crisis in the Sinjar Mountains[edit]

Iraqi and U.S. food drops, U.S. air strikes[edit]

President Obama meeting with his national security advisors on 7 August
U.S. F/A-18 fighters bomb ISIL artillery targets on 8 August

40,000 or more Yazidis were trapped in the Sinjar Mountains and mostly surrounded by ISIL forces[27] who were firing on them.[28] They were largely without food, water or medical care,[19] facing starvation and dehydration.[25]

On 5 August, Iraqi military helicopters reportedly dropped some food and water for the Yazidis in the mountains.[23] Two days later, the U.S. also started dropping food and water.[29]

On 7 August, the U.S. President, Barack Obama, stated that the U.S. was starting air strikes to prevent a potential massacre (genocide) of ISIL on thousands of Yazidis trapped in the Sinjar Mountains.[30] Obama stated that his decision was made because U.S. "leadership is necessary to underwrite the global security and prosperity", "to protect our [American] people," to "support our allies," to "lead coalitions of countries to uphold international norms," "to prevent a potential act of genocide," and to "strive to stay true to the fundamental values—the desire to live with basic freedom and dignity."[31] After having announced the air strikes, the U.S. government pondered until 13 August on the possibilities and necessity of a rescue operation with U.S. ground troops or U.S. airlifts.[32]

On 8 August, two US F/A-18 fighters bombed an ISIL artillery unit outside of Erbil, and four U.S. fighters later bombed an ISIL military convoy.[33] Another round of U.S. airstrikes in the afternoon struck 8 ISIL targets near Erbil. Armed drones as well as fixed wing aircraft were used in the U.S. attacks.[34]

Starting on 10 August, also U.K. planes dropped food and water for the Yazidis in the mountains,[35] and France also promised aid to the refugees.[28]

Clearing a path[edit]

Between 9[20] and 11 August,[24] a safe corridor was established from the mountain enabling 10,000 people to evacuate on the first day.[20] Kurdish fighters from Turkey (PKK) entered the Sinjar Mountains with trucks and tractors to carry out the sick and elderly into Syria via a path that was cleared by Syrian Kurdish militants (YPG). According to Dr. Salim Hassan, a professor at the University of Sulaymaniyah and spokesman of the uprooted Yazidis, the PKK and YPG enabled an estimated 35,000 of the initially 50,000 trapped Yazidis to escape into Syria.[24] According to the account of the Sinjar District Governor, the route was jointly set up by Iraqi Kurdish security forces (Peshmerga) and the YPG, without making any mention of the PKK.[20]

On 12 August, an Iraqi military helicopter, piloted by Maj. Gen. Majid Abdul Salam Ashour, crashed in the mountains while delivering aid and rescuing stranded Yazidi refugees.[36] The general was killed in the crash,[37] while most of the passengers were injured.[16] The continued Iraqi droppings of food and water and their picking up of some Yazidis was backed up by the U.S. airstrikes.[38]

Mountain siege ends[edit]

On 12[32] or 13 August, a dozen U.S. Marines and special forces servicemen landed on Mount Sinjar from V-22 aircraft to assess options for a potential rescue of Yazidi refugees joining British SAS already in the area.[12][39] They reported that "the situation is much more manageable", that there were now far fewer Yazidis on the mountain than expected, and that those Yazidis were in relatively good condition. A U.S. rescue mission for those still on the mountain was therefore "far less likely now", said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.[32]

The siege was officially declared to be broken on 13 August, by U.S airstrikes and Kurdish fighters of the People's Protection Units from Syria, together with their PKK allies from Turkey,[4][5] allowing thousands of refugees to escape.[3] Despite this, according to professor Salim Hassan, between 5,000 and 10,000 people still remained trapped in the mountains.[24] They were reportedly afraid to return to their homes and were sustained in the coming months by airdrops from a lone Iraqi helicopter.[40]

Killings throughout the Sinjar area[edit]

While the siege of Mount Sinjar was taking place, ISIL reportedly killed hundreds of Yazidis in at least six of the nearby villages. 250–300 men were killed in the village of Hardan, 400 in Khocho, 200 in Adnaniya, 70–90 in Quinyeh and on the road out of al-Shimal witnesses reported seeing dozens of bodies. Hundreds of others had also been killed for refusing to convert to Islam.[2] The massacres took place at least until 25 August, when ISIL executed 14 elderly Yezidi men at the Sheikh Mand Shrine, in Jidala, and blew up the shrine.[41]

Counts of casualties[edit]

Further information: Persecution of Yazidis by ISIL

The reports on the number of victims vary.

The New York Times reported on 7 August 2014 that ISIL had executed dozens of Yazidi men in Sinjar city, and had taken their wives for unmarried jihadi fighters.[42] Yazidi community leaders reported on 4 August to the UNAMI/OHCHR interviewers that at least 200 Yazidi had been killed in the District.[43]

Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi Member of Iraq’s Parliament, said that between 2 and 5 August, 500 Yazidi men had been "slaughtered" in the city of Sinjar by ISIL,[19] women had been killed or sold into slavery, and 70 children had died from thirst or suffocation while fleeing the ISIL advance.[19] A civilian from a village north of Sinjar city reported on 3 August, 2,000 Yazidis had been killed throughout the district.[18][44]

In October 2014, a UN report revealed that ISIL had massacred 5,000 Yazidi men during August 2014, with killings running in the hundreds in different villages.[2]

Aftermath – new siege[edit]

Main article: Sinjar offensive

After August 2014, ISIL held onto the town of Sinjar.[40] Several thousand[32] or around 10,000[40] Yazidis remained in the Sinjar Mountains located to the city’s north, sustained by Iraqi airdrops,[40] while an escape road from the mountains northward to Kurdish areas was under Kurdish/Yazidi control.[45] Some of those Yazidis considered the Sinjar Mountains a place of refuge and home and did not want to leave, American officials said.[32] Other Yazidis also came to the mountains after the August evacuations.[46]

On 21 October, ISIL seized terrain north of the mountains, thus cutting the area's escape route to Kurdish areas.[45] The Yazidi militias then withdrew from there into the Sinjar Mountains, where the number of Yazidi civilian refugees was estimated at 2,000–7,000.[45] The mountains had once again been partially besieged by ISIL.[47]

On 17 December, Peshmerga forces, backed by 50 U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on ISIL positions,[40] launched an offensive to liberate Sinjar[40] and to break the partial ISIL siege of the Sinjar Mountains.[47] In less than two days, the siege was broken. After ISIL forces retreated, Kurdish fighters were initially faced with clearing out mines around the area,[48] but quickly opened a land corridor to those mountains, enabling Yazidis to be evacuated. The operation left 100 ISIL fighters dead.[40]

Late on 21 December, Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters south of the mountain range reached Peshmerga lines, thus linking their two fronts.[47] The next day, the YPG broke through ISIL lines, thus opening a corridor from Syria to the town of Sinjar. By the evening, the Peshmerga had entered Sinjar.[47]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Sunni Extremists in Iraq Seize 3 Towns From Kurds and Threaten Major Dam. New York Times, 3 August 2014. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e Hopkins, Steve (14 October 2014). "Full horror of the Yazidis who didn’t escape Mount Sinjar: UN confirms 5,000 men were executed and 7,000 women are now kept as sex slaves". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 13 March 2015. 
  3. ^ a b Militants’ Siege on Mountain in Iraq Is Over, Pentagon Says
  4. ^ a b c d Roussinos, Aris (16 August 2014). "'Everywhere Around Is the Islamic State': On the Road in Iraq with YPG Fighters". Vice News. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d Shelton, Tracey (29 August 2014). "'If it wasn’t for the Kurdish fighters, we would have died up there'". Global Post. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "No Escape from Mount Sinjar". Foreign Policy. 4 November 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
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  8. ^ "Yazidi survivor recalls horror of evading ISIS, death". CNN.
  9. ^ Pamuk, Humeyra (26 August 2014). "Smugglers and Kurdish militants help Iraq's Yazidis flee to Turkey". Reuters. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  10. ^ Syrian Kurds provide Iraq's Peshmerga support against ISIS. Middleeastmonitor.com (4 August 2014).
  11. ^ Obama Authorizes 'Targeted' Airstrikes Against ISIS in Iraq – NBC News. NBC News.com (7 August 2014).
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  13. ^ "SAS sent in to Iraq as US troops land on Mount Sinjar". The Daily Telegraph. 13 August 2014. 
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  16. ^ a b On a Helicopter, Going Down: Inside a Lethal Crash in Iraq
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Coordinates: 36°19′00″N 41°51′00″E / 36.3167°N 41.8500°E / 36.3167; 41.8500