The Yazidis are a minority in Iraq and are one of the country’s oldest religious groups. According to The Guardian, however, being a religion dating as far back as the 11th century has earned them something contrary to respect: persecution.
With years of persecution, the Yazidis have still managed to survive. However, with ISIS militants on their backs, the chances of survival are slim when the possibility of a 21st century Yazidi genocide is at hand.
Since the founding of the religion, the Yazidi people have experienced oppression like no other groups. According to The Week, a British news magazine, they have faced 72 genocides from different groups ranging from the Mongols to the Ottomans. This hatred towards the minority stems from the misunderstanding of their beliefs by other religious groups.
While the Yazidis do believe in God, their religion is mainly centered around seven angels, the central angel being Melek Taus, a once fallen angel who turned away from God, but then returned and was forgiven and sent to heaven. The story of Melek Taus being a fallen angel coincides with the story of Lucifer in Christianity, and it is because of this affiliation that the Yazidis have been deemed as devil-worshippers. According to The Guardian, one of the groups now deeming the Yazidi people as devil-worshippers is the Islamic state, whose motive is to wipe out the minority for good.
“…We are being slaughtered under the banner of ‘there is no god but Allah’….The Shiites (Shias), the Sunnis, the Christians, the Turkmens, and the Shabak were slaughtered. And today, the Yazidis are being slaughtered,” said Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi MP (Member of Parliament) in Iraq who called on Parliament in a video posted on YouTube to take action to stop the ongoing massacre.
According to CNN, there are at least 3,000 documented Yazidi deaths and over 5,000 kidnapped, all at the hands of the Islamic State. Women and children have been taken and sold into slavery, pushing the Yazidis a step back in time. Women are kept as sex slaves, children watch their parents being shot to death, and worst of all, the Yazidi people are beginning to commit suicide while in ISIS captivity. Those who have yet to be captured are seeking refuge on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq. However, complications continue as people are now dying of dehydration and starvation.
Furthermore, as situations worsen, more and more countries are providing humanitarian effort and aid in order to free the Yazidis enslaved on Mount Sinjar.
“Today, I authorized two operations in Iraq: targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel… and a humanitarian effort to save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food, water and facing almost certain death,” said President Barack Obama last year in a speech addressing the need to intervene in Syria. “As ISIL has marched across Iraq, it has waged a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis, and these terrorists have been especially barbaric towards religious minorities including Christians and Yazidis…”.
Mount Sinjar is a key point of ISIS control and with Yazidi families dying from a lack of basic needs, the mission to take back the mountain is both critical and dangerous. Despite the threatening situation, however, Kurdish forces (an ethnic group in the Middle East) have decided to take back the mountain, and they are not alone.
“If French, Russian or American fighters come here to fight we [Kurdish forces] will cooperate with them, as we are all fighting to clean the area of ISIS for humanity,” said Kurdish commander, Sarhad, in an interview with CNN.
Because of the Islamic state’s reputation for acts of terror, other countries have realized the need for a communal humanitarian effort in order to rescue the Yazidis. With Kurdish forces trying to regain control of the mountain, the U.S. decided to play a critical role by providing them with continuous air support in order to clear the way. The U.S. joined the air coalition with not only the intention of aiding the Kurdish, but also with the intention of preventing ISIS from selling items (such as oil) on the black market. Going through Sinjar is a highway, Highway 47, which is used by jihadists to transport different goods. By taking control of Sinjar, the U.S. and Kurdish forces would also be able to seize the highway and prevent ISIS from continuing their black market sales, cutting them off from funding.
While the U.S. is aiding on the battlefield, Germany is assisting the Yazidis who were fortunate enough to escape ISIS captivity. The country is offering the formerly enslaved Yazidis refuge, psychological support, schooling for children, and ultimately, the chance at a new life. Although escaping death is a miracle to the Yazidis, they still are shedding tears for what they are leaving behind: home. For some of the free Yazidis, family members still remain in slavery while others simply have the memory of their loved ones who have already fallen at the hands of jihadists.
“They killed my dad. They killed my cousins and my uncles. They kidnapped 25 of my relatives, including women,” said Sabah Mirza Mahmoud, a 15-year-old fleeing the country, in an interview with CNN.
With no ability to help those being left behind without the possibility of being recaptured, there is no future in Iraq for these freed captives. At the moment, these former and current prisoners of war are relying on the charity and aid provided from other countries in order to survive.