A group of Iraqi Yazidi leaders came to Washington last week to meet with officials and plead for assistance in protecting their people and lands from a renewed assault by ISIS. Josh Rogin caught up with the visiting dignitaries and listened to what they had to say:
“Our hostages, children, women, and girls, between 4,000 and 5,000 of them, have been captured by ISIS and sent to other areas. We need help to rescue these hostages,” said Sameer Karto Babasheikh, the son of the Yazidi Supreme Religious Council leader. “In Mosul, they opened a market to sell Yazidi girls. Some of them ended up in Fallujah, some of them were taken to Saudi Arabia and Raqqa in Syria.”
On the mountain, between 6,000 and 7,000 civilians and between 2,000 and 3,000 Yazidi fighters are still trapped and struggling to stay alive, cut off from any supply routes, the Yazidi leaders said. Since the airstrikes trailed off to a trickle in October, ISIS has taken over the five remaining Yazidi towns near Mount Sinjar, killing hundreds of civilians and abducting hundreds more. Even the humanitarian airdrops have halted. The Iraqi government provided two helicopters to deliver aid, but they are old and fly only once or twice a week, Babasheikh said.
Reporting from Dohuk, Alice Su confirms that “there remains no open path for civilians to get out, or for aid to get in”, while the Yazidis blame the Kurdish Peshmerga for abandoning them:
Humanitarian agencies are ready to aid Sinjar as soon as military action opens a way. Around Zumar, for example, a town north of Mosul just recaptured from the Islamic State on Oct. 25, organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) are already hard at work. “People in these risky areas are much more in need,” said ICRC spokesperson Dabbakeh Saleh. “They have been totally cut off from the rest of the world.”
A Peshmerga-led effort to liberate Sinjar would represent a reversal from the situation in August, when their retreat left the Yazidis exposed to the assault by the Islamic State. “There is no doubt that the Peshmerga not only did not fight in Sinjar, but they also did not evacuate people or tell the towns that IS had arrived in the south of the mountain,” said Iraq-based researcher Christine van den Toorn. “It was total abandonment.”
Previous Dish on the Yazidis here.
(Video: ISIS militants chat and joke about buying and selling Yazidi slaves on “slave market day”. Via Joel Wing.)