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Sinjar’s #Yazidis and their #Arab and #Kurdish Sunni neighbours lived in peace until 3 August 2014. The date is scrawled on the city’s ruins. It is seared in memory. On that day, ISIS militants and their local Sunni supporters overran the district and surrounding areas.
Massacres, forced conversions to #Islam, and kidnappings ensued. Militants took women and girls as sex slaves in a campaign of terror that #Yazidis describe as 74th attempt to annihilate them because of their faith.
Like others be4 them,ISIS followers regard Yazidis as devil-& sun-worshipping apostates. Yazidism is a closed religion that forbids converts,enforces a strict caste system,brands followers who abandon it infidels&prohibits intermarriage with non-Yazidis,reinforcing its insularity
Yazidis were not the only ISIS target in the area. Sinjar’s Christians also fled, as did Shi’ites in nearby Tal Afar and other areas – where some Sunnis turned against their neighbours to aid the extremists.
-4- #Minorities
Iraqi Kurdistan’s #Peshmerga forces withdrew from #Sinjar without a fight, leaving the minorities defenceless until the #PKK & its Syrian affiliates,#YPG/#YPJ, rushed to their aid. After reaching Sinjar, they quickly trained and deployed a small Yazidi force called the #YBS.
Some Yazidis stayed in their homes, unable or unwilling to escape. Others say they were coaxed down from the Sinjar Mountains by their Arab and Kurdish Muslim neighbours. Many never made it home.
-6- #YazidiGenocide
“They tricked us into returning. We thought we’d saved ourselves; we fled to the mountain; then they [called and] said there’s nothing to fear – we won’t fight you; we’re fighting the state.” Ayshan, a #Yazidi woman, who ISIS kidnapped along with 30 members of her extended family
“We know who they are. The person who detained us was a #Kurd who lived with #Yazidis
My brother said, ‘Maybe I can ask him 4 mercy, to let us go.’
My brother told him, ‘we are neighbours, we are family, we lived together, you can’t do this to us. You are from #Sinjar; save us.’”
Tens of thousands of #Yazidis were trapped on Mount Sinjar’s dry, sunburned plateau, at risk of dehydration, starvation, and ISIS attacks. Temperatures soared above 50°C. The desperate situation prompted the Iraqi and American militaries to conduct airdrops of food and water.
Within days of the initial ISIS assault, almost all #Yazidi villages in and around #Sinjar were empty, with the exception of #Kocho, in the south of the district. There, ISIS militants gave Yazidis several days to consider an ultimatum: convert or die.
“Until 2 August, our neighbours were all our friends. On 3 August, our neighbours became our enemies,” says Sheikh Nayef Jasim Kassim, leader of the 18,000-strong Mandakan – a #Yazidi tribe spread across 11 villages, including #Kocho, his home town.
On 15 August 2014, the extremists corralled #Kocho’s 1,740 residents into a school, separated men from women and children, and transferred all but 67 of the women and 16 children to #Mosul via #TalAfar.
-12- #YazidiPlight
The men stayed behind. The women and children were “gifted” or sold to ISIS militants spread across #Syria and #Iraq. The remaining 67 women, all of whom were elderly, were executed and buried in a mass grave. The fate of the 16 children is unknown.
-13- #YazidiGenocide
Almost 400 men and teenage boys were taken in batches in pick-up trucks from the schoolhouse to the outskirts of the village, where they were executed by gunfire.
-14- #YezidiGenocide
Only 19 survived, protected under the falling corpses. They include a 46-year-old father of three who has for the past four years lived in a camp for the displaced in Zakho, in #Iraq|i #Kurdistan.
-15- #YazidiPlight
“I survived, until now I don’t know how.The bullets were raining around me. It happened during the day,around noon. They brought a bulldozer to bury us. I realised I was alive.” A #Yazidi man survived,protected under the falling corpses. 74 members of his family(kidnapped/killed)
“The Arabs of the area – the Imteywits, Khatoonys, Jahaysh, Shammar, Jabbouri – all the Arabs around us were against us, with the terrorists of Daesh [an Arabic acronym for ISIS].” A #Yazidi man survivor of genocide
-17- #StopYezidiGenocide
In Kocho alone, Sheikh Nayef says, there are 14 mass graves. Of the more than 800 women who were kidnapped, around 600 escaped or were later rescued. The fate of the rest is unknown. Not a single resident of #Kocho has returned home.
-18- #YazidiPlight
Today,#Sinjar is a ghost town,with entire neighbourhoods reduced 2 rubble.The names of the heads of households r spray-painted on the ruins of pple’s homes,often alongside“4sale”notices.Around 12%of the district’s pre-ISIS population,hv returned 2 Sinjar city&villages north of it
The streets of Sinjar’s main city are quiet, save for the occasional sound of a power generator in some areas. Basic public services such as water, electricity, and healthcare are insufficient and inconsistent.
-20- #Shingal #Sinjar
It is unclear how many Yazidis the ISIS advance and military counteroffensive killed. So far, the authorities have discovered almost 70 mass graves across Sinjar. Of the more than 6,000 Yazidi women and children ISIS kidnapped, around 3,000 are still missing.
Yazidi community leaders say that, since 2003, more than 100,000 #Yazidis have emigrated to #Europe, #Canada, or #Australia. Most of those still in #Iraq are now in camps for the internally displaced scattered across Iraqi #Kurdistan.
-22- #YazidiKidnapped
There are 14 such camps in the province of #Dohuk alone. Around 2,500 #Yazidi families still live in tents and basic cinderblock rooms on Mount Sinjar, four years after fleeing there. Many remaining Yazidis say they hope to emigrate if given the opportunity.
-23- #EzidiTteam
After kidnapping Ayshan and her extended family, ISIS sold her into slavery along with her elderly mother. They escaped ISIS-controlled Aleppo in July 2015.
-24- #Sinjar
Of the 31 members of Ayshan’s family ISIS captured, all except her four brothers, two of her nephews, and three of her female relatives were eventually ransomed or otherwise rescued. The fate of the others is unknown.
-25- #YazidiPlight
After her escape, Ayshan spent several months in Iraqi Kurdistan, before returning to #Sinjar in December 2015. Unlike many other Yazidis, she does not want to emigrate. Her family home destroyed, she now lives in a friend’s house in Sinjar city.
-26/34- #YazidiGenocide
“I cannot leave #Sinjar. My family is from here – their smell lingers; its soil is my homeland.”
Like many Yazidis, she does not want her Arab and Kurdish Sunni neighbours to return to Sinjar or surrounding areas: “they are traitors to us and to the state."
-27- #Shingal
The Kocho survivor says his family will not return 2 their home town unless the area becomes part of an international protectorate. His demands r common. “There is no future for #minorities in #Iraq. There were once #Jews here. Where are they now? Our fate is the same: to leave.”
Kocho’s Sheikh Nayef has given the Iraqi security forces the names of around 3,000 local Arabs he suspects of having ties to ISIS, but he has little confidence that the state will investigate and detain them all.
-29- #Yazidis
Until it does, and until the fate of kidnapped #Yazidis becomes clear, reconciliation with his #Arab and #Kurdish Sunni neighbours is impossible. “Everyone who stayed with Daesh for a long time, they are supporters of Daesh because they did not fear them,”siad Sheikh Nayef/#Kocho
Established in Dohuk province in Nov. 2014, the Sharya camp for the displaced is home to more than 16,000 #Yazidis from Sinjar & surrounding areas. There are 3 key reasons why some residents say they cannot go home: insecurity, a lack of services & fear of, their Arab neighbours.
“If we return, we fear that in a few years the same thing will happen again. If you live surrounded by enemies, it’s difficult. When the government is weak, we will be attacked again.” a Yazidi man in his forties said.
-32- #Yezidis
“for pple, what does that mean, ‘rebuilding’? That I will rebuild ur house, but that #Arab guy who participated in killing ur father, killing ur brothers, raping ur sister – he’s 500 metres away & hs returned & is living as if nothing hs happened? Would u go back? Justice first.”
Like some other #Yazidi rape survivors, the 19-yr-old says she is also “very tired” of NGOs that “open my wounds every time they talk to me... They say we will help you. Where is their help? I swear there have been many NGOs & none of them helped.”
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