Threatened Yezidi minority calls for US Special Forces to free their families from ISIS detention

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Yezidi families escaped Shingal following ISIS control and resorted to Mount Sinjar. Photo: Activists

ARA News 

DUHOK – Yezidi Peshmerga fighters have called on the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS) to free their women and children from the ISIS detention in Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq.  

The frontlines in Sinjar –known in Kurdish as Shingal– are quiet and restless and are protected by around 5,000 Yezidi Peshmergas and fighters of the Shingal Resistance Units (YBŞ). On Wednesday, ISIS mortars injured several civilians inside the city of Sinjar. 

“There are not any more ISIS forces in Tal Afar. My family is all in Tal Afar. There are 700 Yezidi families in the hands of ISIS in Tal Afar. I need my family to be free,” said Hassan, a Peshmerga fighter. “Now people need apaches here, there are no more ISIS forces in Tal Afar, I am sure,” he told ARA News. 

“They [Americans] made a special operation in Hawija and freed prisoners, why they don’t do it here too?” he said.

In October, Kurdish and American special forces stormed an ISIS prison in Hawija. Moreover, in May US special forces killed senior ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf and captured his wife and freed a young Yezidi woman. 

“Why they couldn’t come to help us to free Yezidis held by ISIS in Shingal. They did a special operation in Syria by special forces in 15 minutes, and why they don’t do the same for Shingal. If you go 15 kilometers further to Tal Afar, there are many Yezidi prisoners held by the ISIS,” said another Yezidi fighter called Azad.  

“If ISIS commits one more genocide, we Yezidis are finished, we are surrounded by Arabs in Shingal, and in Tal Afar by Turkmens. My mother, my family is in the hands of ISIS terrorists,” Azad told ARA News. 

Many Yezidis are afraid that the captured Yezidis could be lost if they are not freed. There are already rumours in Sinjar, that the Islamic State group is using Yezidi captives as fighters in Libya.  

“If the US-led coalition won’t help us free the Yezidis in Iraq and Syria, ISIS could bring them to other countries, and we will never find them again,” he said.

The Peshmerga fighters say they are fighting ISIS jihadis with light weapons. “They [ISIS] are the strongest terrorist organization in the world. We are trying to defend ourselves and our people here [in Shingal] with these simple weapons and supplies,” Hassan said. 

“We ask Western countries to send us more weapons and military supplies. The most dangerous thing is that the Islamic State still controls our land. There are still many [Kurdish Yezidi] villages in the hands of the terror group,” he said.

Peshmerga forces say the United States is preventing them from taking the villages south of Shingal which are still under ISIS control, and where Yezidis were massacred in August 2014. 

Speaking to ARA News in Shingal, senior Peshmerga commander Qasim Shesho said: “We are ready as Peshmerga forces, but the decision belongs to the United States. If they allow us, we will attack ISIS; it would be easy to regain those areas.” 

In August 2014, ISIS extremists had taken control of the Yezidi Shingal district in northern Iraq, causing a mass displacement of nearly 400,000 people. Tens of thousands of Yezidi Kurds remained trapped in Mount Sinjar, suffering mass killings, kidnappings and rape at the hands of ISIS militants. Also, more than 3000 Yezidi girls have been taken by the radical group as sex slaves. 

The Kurdish Peshmerga troops regained control of the Yezidi Shingal region in November of 2015, after fierce battles against ISIS. The Kurdish forces have recently discovered more than five mass graves in the Yezidi region, where hundreds of Yezidi civilians have been summarily executed and buried by ISIS jihadis. 

Human Rights Watch calls for release of Yezidi women

The extremist armed group of Islamic State (ISIS) should urgently release Yezidi women and girls abducted since 2014, Human Rights Watch said last week. According to statistics, at least 1,800 Yezidi women and girls are still in ISIS-hands.

“The longer they are held by ISIS, the more horrific life becomes for Yezidi women, bought and sold, brutally raped, their children torn from them,” said Skye Wheeler, women’s rights emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. 

According to officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria continue to hold about 1,800 abducted Yezidi women and girls. 

The United Nations has cited allegations, based on Yezidi officials’ estimates, that as many as 3,500 people remained in ISIS captivity as of October 2015. 

“Many of the abuses, including torture, sexual slavery, and arbitrary detention, would be war crimes if committed in the context of the armed conflict, or crimes against humanity if they were part of ISIS policy during a systematic or widespread attack on the civilian population,” the HRW said.

The UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in March 2015 that ISIS may have committed genocide against the Yezidis in August 2014.

“The abuses against Yezidi women and girls documented by Human Rights Watch, including the practice of abducting women and girls and forcibly converting them to Islam and/or forcibly marrying them to ISIS members, may be part of a genocide against Yezidis,” HRW said. 

“Women also reported ISIS members taking their children from them, physically abusing their children, and forcing them to pray or take Islamic names.”

“ISIS attacks on women and girls, especially Yezidis, have created a new and terrifying crisis for women and girls in the region,” Wheeler said. “One way Iraq’s government can help these women is to change its laws and policies to better protect all women who have been subjected to rape.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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