To escape IS jihadis, Yazidis hide on Mount Sinjar

Yaser Yunes   |  Mosul (Iraq)


Recent inroads by militants of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group in Yazidi territory in Iraq have led 2,500 people to seek refuge on Mount Sinjar, which has become a safe haven for the minority Kurdish sect for the second time this year.

The Yazidis are in hiding in caves or small huts abandoned by shepherds in the rugged area in northern Iraq, to avoid being captured by the IS, which regards them and other religious minorities as infidels.

Mount Sinjar already made headlines last August, when thousands of Yazidis were besieged by the jihadis, until they were able to flee thanks to the help of Kurdish forces and US air raids in the region. In the past few days, the jihadis have seized the villages of Hatin, Duhka and Burk, in a new offensive launched to take advantage of the absence of warplanes of the US-led international coalition over Mount Sinjar due to bad weather conditions.

The offensive has prompted 450 Yazidi families, consisting of between 2500 and 3000 people, to seek refuge on Mount Sinjar, said Luqman al-Khansuri, a leader in the Sinjar Protection Forces militias, in remarks to Efe.

The refugees -- most of them relatives of fighters on the mount -- are facing cold weather, rain, lightning and IS bombings with lack of food, supplies, medicines and fuel, he added.

The bad weather has also forced the suspension of humanitarian corridors used to supply the Yazidis, some of whom have been on the mountain since August, especially older people.

Nawaf al-Sheikh, 35, who left the mountain 20 days ago and headed for Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, where 200,000 other displaced people live, said some of his elderly relatives were stranded on Mount Sinjar.

The only way to make it to safety to Kurdistan is through rugged terrain in Syrian territory with the assistance of Syrian Kurdish fighters, he explained.

Some 500,000 Yazidis and other minorities have fled northern Iraq since last June, while hundreds were killed, according to the UN.

The Yazidis, ethnic Kurds who follow a religion based on Zoroastrianism, are considered infidel by the IS.

The Sunni radical organisation claimed that Yazidi women and children captured in Iraq were given to its fighters as war trophies and were turned into slaves and forced to convert to Islam.

The Yazidis feel they have been abandoned by the central government in Baghdad.

"It is impossible to hide the sad truth," Keru Khudr, a refugee in Iraq's Kurdistan, told Efe news agency. -IANS/EFE