Expansion of IS in Northern Iraq is a catastrophe for minorities

Image: Yezidi vluchtelingen in de bergen bij Sinjar.

August 6, 2014

The continuous expansion of territory controlled by the Islamic State (IS, formerly known as ISIS) poses a direct threat to the survival of minorities in Northern Iraq.

Upon seizing Mosul last June, IS took Sinjar last Sunday, a town located near the Syrian border. In response, thousands of local residents fled in the direction of Dohuk in the relatively safe Kurdish region. The majority of residents of the Sinjar area are Yezidi, a religious group adhering to Zoroastrian traditions. IS considers Yezidi to be infidels.

Following the expulsion and persecution of other minorities in the Ninewa province, such as Shabak, Shia and Christian communities, Yezidi appear to be the next target of IS. PAX local partners in the area describe the latest developments as ‘catastrophic’ and call on the international community to protect the local population. Below PAX’ partner al-Mesalla in Northern Iraq reports with stories from refugees from the Sinjar area.

Specific target
Following the control of Sinjar by IS on August 3rd, Yezidi have become a specific target as they constitute the majority in this area. About 200,000 residents have fled Sinjar to the nearby mountains, but are now surrounded by IS militias. Yezidi representatives fear that children and elderly will soon die of starvation. Local sources report that 50 families have already been killed by IS. Other sources note that Yezidi males are executed and women raped or forced to marry IS men.

More protection
The Sinjar refugees, including IDPs from the Mosul area, have fled to four major locations: Baadre, Khanke, Sharia and Dohuk. The Yezidi community in the Iraqi Kurdish region have staged demonstrations in front of the Kurdish Parliament to stress for more protection of local residents in Ninewa by Kurdish peshmerga forces. In Dohuk, which harbors most of the Sinjar (about 70,000) refugees, the host capacities are minimal. It has been reported that Kurdish authorities have approved a land for the construction of a camp for the Yezidi refugees. Many refugees suffer from traumatic disorders following their sudden departure from home, their fear for IS terror and the fact that they had to leave their personal belongings and even some family members behind.

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