The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking ethnic and religious minority living primarily in northern Iraq. Sunni Jihadists and the Islamic State in particular, regard the Yazidis as ‘devil worshippers’ who have two options: atone and convert, or face death.
On August 3rd, 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) viciously attacked and took over the Sinjar area, forcing about 150,000 people, primarily Yazidis, to flee. The United Nations has reported that roughly 50,000 of those individuals, many of them women and children, were forced to flee to Mount Sinjar in the northwest of the country, where they were trapped on the mountain without sufficient food or water. On August 10th, A combination of United States military airstrikes and help from other Kurdish groups eventually broke the hold on Mt. Sinjar.
By the end of August, ISIL had murdered more than 5,000 Yazidi men and kidnapped and sold thousands of Yazidi women and girls as sexual slaves. The UN Assistant Mission for Iraq and the UN Human Rights office estimates that 3,500 people, mostly women and children are being held as slaves in Iraq by ISIL. A UN Report released in March 2015 by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) details violations of international law by ISIL. In addition to detailing the killings and rapes, the report illustrates how the fundamentalist group forcibly separated young Yazidi boys from their families, converted them to Islam, and then conscripted them as fighters.
On March 14, 2016, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution acknowledging ISIL’s actions against Christians and Yazidis in both Syria and Iraq as “genocide.” A few days later, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement that ISIL’s actions against the Yazidis and other minority groups in Iraq constituted genocide. This was the first time that the United States declared a genocide since 2004 when then Secretary of State Colin Powell labeled the situation in Darfur, Sudan as genocide.
Just last week, British Members of Parliament unanimously declared that ISIS’ atrocities against Yazidi and Christian minorities amount to genocide. Thousands of displaced Yazidis continue to seek shelter in refugee camps in northern Iraq while thousands more continue to be held in captivity by ISIL. To learn more about how to support the survivors of the Yazidi genocide visit Yazda—A Global Yazidi Organization.