|Part of the Northern Iraq offensive (August 2014), and the American-led intervention in Iraq (2014–present)|
An image of the mountainside of Mount Sinjar
|Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Maj. Gen. Majid Abdul Salam Ashour †
(Iraqi Air Force)
|Abu Muslim al-Turkmani (Deputy, Iraq)|
|Casualties and losses|
|2,000 killed (500 in Sinjar city; per Yazidis)
5,000 killed (per U.N.)
The Sinjar massacre was the killing of 2,000–5,000 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.
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.
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. ISIL also destroyed a Shiite shrine in Sinjar, executed resisters, and demanded the residents to swear allegiance or be killed.
In surrounding villages, many residents fled immediately. 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.
Almost 200,000 civilians, mostly Yazidis, managed to flee from the fighting in Sinjar city, about 50,000 of them fled into the Sinjar Mountains, where they were trapped without food, water or medical care, facing starvation and dehydration.
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. On 4 August, Kurdish fighters purportedly battled ISIL to retake Sinjar.
Refugees’ crisis in the Sinjar Mountains
Iraqi and U.S. food drops, U.S. air strikes
40,000 or more Yazidis were trapped in the Sinjar Mountains and mostly surrounded by ISIL forces who were firing on them. They were largely without food, water or medical care, facing starvation and dehydration.
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. 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." 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.
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. 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.
Clearing a path
Between 9 and 11 August, a safe corridor was established from the mountain enabling 10,000 people to evacuate on the first day. 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. 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.
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. The general was killed in the crash, while most of the passengers were injured. The continued Iraqi droppings of food and water and their picking up of some Yazidis was backed up by the U.S. airstrikes.
Mountain siege ends
On 12 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. 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.
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, allowing thousands of refugees to escape. Despite this, according to professor Salim Hassan, between 5,000 and 10,000 people still remained trapped in the mountains. They were reportedly afraid to return to their homes and were sustained in the coming months by airdrops from a lone Iraqi helicopter.
Killings throughout the Sinjar area
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. 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.
Counts of casualties
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. Yazidi community leaders reported on 4 August to the UNAMI/OHCHR interviewers that at least 200 Yazidi had been killed in the District.
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, women had been killed or sold into slavery, and 70 children had died from thirst or suffocation while fleeing the ISIL advance. A civilian from a village north of Sinjar city reported on 3 August, 2,000 Yazidis had been killed throughout the district.
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.
Aftermath – new siege
After August 2014, ISIL held onto the town of Sinjar. Several thousand or around 10,000 Yazidis remained in the Sinjar Mountains located to the city’s north, sustained by Iraqi airdrops, while an escape road from the mountains northward to Kurdish areas was under Kurdish/Yazidi control. Some of those Yazidis considered the Sinjar Mountains a place of refuge and home and did not want to leave, American officials said. Other Yazidis also came to the mountains after the August evacuations.
On 21 October, ISIL seized terrain north of the mountains, thus cutting the area's escape route to Kurdish areas. 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. The mountains had once again been partially besieged by ISIL.
On 17 December, Peshmerga forces, backed by 50 U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on ISIL positions, launched an offensive to liberate Sinjar and to break the partial ISIL siege of the Sinjar Mountains. 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, but quickly opened a land corridor to those mountains, enabling Yazidis to be evacuated. The operation left 100 ISIL fighters dead.
Late on 21 December, Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters south of the mountain range reached Peshmerga lines, thus linking their two fronts. 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.
- Spillover of the Syrian Civil War
- Fall of Mosul
- First Battle of Tikrit
- Siege of Kobanî
- Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant occupation of Derna
- Sinjar offensive
- Liberation of Mosul
- Al-Hasakah offensive (February–March 2015)
- Second Battle of Tikrit (March–April 2015)
- Battle of Sarrin
- List of wars and battles involving ISIL
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