When I arrived in Israel on June 10th what most concerned me was what ISIS was doing in Iraq - the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Da'ash). They had just taken Mosul and seemed like they would soon attack Baghdad. They haven't done that yet, but they have been consolidating their hold on Iraq, including conquering the town of Sinjar, near Iraqi Kurdistan, a couple of days ago. 200,000 people fled, especially Yazidis. Many of them are now stranded on a mountaintop, surrounded by ISIS fighters and are beginning to die of thirst.
BAGHDAD — Stranded on a barren mountaintop, thousands of minority Iraqis are faced with a bleak choice: descend and risk slaughter at the hands of the encircled Sunni extremists or sit tight and risk dying of thirst.
Humanitarian agencies said Tuesday that between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians remain trapped on Mount Sinjar since being driven out of surrounding villages and the town of Sinjar two days earlier. But the mountain that had looked like a refuge is becoming a graveyard for their children.
Unable to dig deep into the rocky mountainside, displaced families said they have buried young and elderly victims of the harsh conditions in shallow graves, their bodies covered with stones. Iraqi government planes attempted to airdrop bottled water to the mountain on Monday night but reached few of those marooned.
“There are children dying on the mountain, on the roads,” said Marzio Babille, the Iraq representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). “There is no water, there is no vegetation, they are completely cut off and surrounded by Islamic State. It’s a disaster, a total disaster.”
Most of those who fled Sinjar are from the minority Yazidi sect, which melds parts of ancient Zoroastrianism with Christianity and Islam. They are considered by the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State to be devil worshippers and apostates.An Al-Jazeera article reports:
Yazidi sources told Al Jazeera that Islamic State fighters have asked the remaining Yazidis under their control to convert to Islam or face death. Islamic State-affiliated social media accounts, meanwhile, have posted images of summary executions of individuals in Sinjar and surrounding areas.
Multiple Yazidi sources told Al Jazeera that Islamic State fighters have taken dozens of women hostage and moved them to the nearby town of Talafar, which has been under the group's control since June. These claims could not be independently verified as journalists cannot enter Islamic State-controlled areas.The Times of India also reports:
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs , between 35,000-50,000 Yazidi civilians are stuck atop the Sinjar Mountains, surrounded by Islamic State fighters on all sides. People are rapidly running out of food and water supplies, and the UN Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, warned that " a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar ".
Members of the group trapped in the mountains told Al Jazeera that as many as 30 people have starved to death so far, the majority of whom are children, while some Yazidi men - armed with light weapons - are protecting the routes that Islamic State fighters could use to get to the civilians. These reports could not be independently verified by Al Jazeera.
"We cannot get out of here; we cannot move. It's all [Islamic State] fighters around us. If we move down they will kill us," Qassim Barakat, who is stuck in the mountain with 15 members of his extended family, told Al Jazeera by phone. "We want the world to help us. We want the United Nations to help us."
"We are here without any shelter. Everyone, children and women, are laying down under the sun," said Shakir Hassan, who said he escaped to the mountain from the nearby Gir Aziz district with hundreds of other families. "We call on any power who can to come save us."
Many of the families who fled to the mountain were either those who did not have a car to drive to the safer areas in Peshmergas' hands or mistakenly thought that ISIS would not be able to stay in Sinjar very long.
On Tuesday, Yazidi sources told Al Jazeera that helicopters - thought to belong to the Iraqi military - had dropped food and water to those caught in the Sinjar Mountain. But some of the supplies were rendered useless as they flew at a high altitude to avoid being shot down by Islamic State fighters.
The roads from Shekhan to Zumar, another area that Islamic State fighters captured on Saturday, are full of displaced families camping on both sides of the road without any protective shelter. Others are now living in two camps for internally-displaced persons in Sharia and Khanik....
"Around 85 percent of the Yazidis live in Sinjar," said Mamo Selim al-Bagsri, head of the municipality in Skhean. He warned that large-scale killing of Yazdis would have an irreversible impact on the community's future. "The only one who is not against Yazidis is God."
DOHUK, Iraq: Iraqi helicopters dropped supplies on Tuesday to thousands of people hiding from jihadists in desolate mountains, many of them from the Yazidi minority which officials warned risked being massacred or starved into extinction.
A Yazidi lawmaker broke down in tears during a parliament session as she urged the government and the international community to save her community from Islamic State militants who overran the Sinjar region.
"Over the past 48 hours, 30,000 families have been besieged in the Sinjar mountains, with no water and no food," said Vian Dakhil. "Seventy children have already died of thirst and 30 elderly people have also died," she said.
Dakhil said 500 Yazidi men were killed by IS militants since they took over the town of Sinjar and surrounding villages on Sunday. Their women were enslaved as "war booty", she said. "We are being slaughtered, our entire religion is being wiped off the face of the earth. I am begging you, in the name of humanity."
The United Nations' Children Fund, earlier on Tuesday, said that at least 40 children had died as a result of the IS onslaught on Sinjar, which was previously under the control of Kurdish peshmerga troops.
The town, near the Syrian border, is a hub for Yazidis, a very closed community that follows an ancient faith rooted in Zoroastrianism and referred to by jihadists as "devil worshippers".
Sinjar was also a temporary home for thousands of displaced people from other minorities, such as Shiite Turkmen who had fled the nearby city of Tal Afar when IS launched its offensive on June 9.
The attack on Sinjar sent thousands of people running from their homes in panic, some of them scurrying into the mountains with no supplies. "Families who fled the area are in immediate need of urgent assistance, including up to 25,000 children who are now stranded in mountains surrounding Sinjar and are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including drinking water and sanitation services," Unicef said.While the world has been concerned with Gaza and Ukraine, ISIS continues to consolidate its hold on Iraq and Syria, killing thousands of people in the process and threatening hundreds of thousands more. The question is not why people are paying attention to Gaza - it is why the vicious terrorist acts of ISIS are being ignored by the world. Are the Christians, Yezidis, and other religious minority groups in Iraq of less importance than the Palestinians of Gaza? Why are there not mass demonstrations in the streets of Europe and America demanding that our governments do something to help defeat ISIS and protect its victims? After all, the US and UK are responsible for destabilizing Iraq - doesn't that require us to take responsibility for helping the people of Iraq endangered by ISIS?