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Yazidis commemorate Second Anniversary of Islamic State Massacre in Iraq

At least 5,000 Yazidis, mostly men and boys, were killed during the 2014 attack on the Iraqi city

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qz.com

August 3, 2016: Yazidis in Iraq and throughout the world on Wednesday commemorated the second anniversary of a massacre committed by Islamic State militants in Sinjar.

At least 5,000 Yazidis, mostly men and boys, were killed during the 2014 attack on the Iraqi city. The United Nations reported Wednesday that the religious minority continues to suffer at the hands of IS.

“Two years on, over 3,200 women and children are still held by IS and are subjected to almost unimaginable violence,” the U.N. Commission for Inquiry on Syria said.

The commission was referring to the Yazidi women and girls who were taken as sexual slaves by IS militants. Most of them are being held in Raqqa, the IS de facto capital in Syria.

Prior to the assault in August 2014, Sinjar was home to the largest Yazidi community in the world. Yazidis, a distinct Kurdish religious minority, are viewed as infidels by IS extremists.

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In November 2015, Iraqi Kurdish forces known as Peshmerga, with the help of the U.S.-led coalition, liberated Sinjar from IS militants. “I would like to express my gratitude to the coalition, which is led by the United States,” Hazim Tahsin, a Yazidi spiritual leader, told a gathering Wednesday at Lalish Temple in northern Iraq, the most sacred Yazidi site, to remember the genocide’s victims.

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The city is now under Kurdish control, but many Yazidis still feel it is not safe to return to their homes. Thousands of Yazidis remain in refugee camps inside Iraq and across the Middle East.

One woman’s plea

“I have been living in a camp for nearly two years,” said Tawra, a female Yazidi refugee who preferred to go by her first name only. She lives at a refugee camp near Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey.

“All I want now is for my Yazidi sisters [enslaved by IS] to return home safely,” she told VOA.

Yazidi activists say the international community needs to do more to help Yazidis.

“The world has recognized what happened in Sinjar as genocide,” Peri Ibrahim of the Free Yazidi Foundation, a group that advocates for Yazidi rights, said in an interview with VOA’s Kurdish service. “This recognition should be translated into actions that protect Yazidis and help them return to their homes.”

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Ibrahim said her organization has been working with the Hague-based International Criminal Court to document crimes committed by IS fighters — many recruited from the West — against Yazidis.

The U.S. earlier this year blamed IS for perpetrating genocide against Yazidis and other minority groups in the Middle East.

“Today, as a somber occasion, we remember Yazidi victims of Daesh [IS] and its hateful ideology,” Ken Gross, the consul general in Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, said during a speech at Lalish Temple.

In Washington, Yazidi activists planned to hold a candlelight vigil Wednesday in front of the White House to honor the victims of Sinjar and to call for “global attention to help displaced and traumatized survivors of the genocide,” a statement from the Free Yazidi Foundation said. (VOA)

  • AJ Krish

    Certain tragic events change the course of history and the future becomes uncertain. The genocide by IS has affected many and has caught global attention.

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“When I Took Over, It Was A Mess. They Were All Over The Place — All Over Syria and Iraq,” Claims Trump as IS Territory in Syria is Nearly Eliminated

Ciyager Amed, an official with the Kurdish-led SDF, said they were searching for any IS militants hiding in tunnels in a riverside pocket in the village of Baghuz. The SDF has not yet announced a victory over IS. 

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Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks at Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, Ohio, March 20, 2019. VOA

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the last pocket of the Islamic State’s land in Syria would be liberated by U.S.-backed forces “by tonight.”

Trump previously announced the defeat of the group, but sleeper cells of fighters re-emerged. With no signs of fighting on Wednesday, however, the long-running battle to retake the militants’ last outpost in eastern Syria appeared to have reached its conclusion.

“The caliphate is gone as of tonight,” Trump said in a speech at a factory in Lima, Ohio, where military tanks are assembled.

End of caliphate

The complete fall of Baghuz would mark the end of IS’s self-declared caliphate, which at its height stretched across large parts of Syria and Iraq.

During his speech, Trump held up two maps of Syria — one covered in red representing territory held by the militant group when he was elected president in November 2016 and the other that had only a speck of red.

Donald Trump
Trump previously announced the defeat of the group, but sleeper cells of fighters re-emerged. With no signs of fighting on Wednesday, however, the long-running battle to retake the militants’ last outpost in eastern Syria appeared to have reached its conclusion. VOA

“When I took over, it was a mess. They were all over the place — all over Syria and Iraq,” said Trump, who has said the U.S. will keep 400 troops in Syria indefinitely.

For the past four years, U.S.-led forces have waged a destructive campaign against the group. But even after Baghuz’s fall, IS maintains a scattered presence and sleeper cells that threaten a continuing insurgency.

The militants have been putting up a desperate fight, their propaganda machine working even as their hold on territory has been slipping away. The battle for Baghuz has dragged on for weeks and the encampment had proven to be a major battleground, with tents covering foxholes and underground tunnels.

FILE - A child stands on the back of a truck after being evacuated out of the last territory held by Islamic State militants, outside Baghuz, Syria, March 4, 2019.
A child stands on the back of a truck after being evacuated out of the last territory held by Islamic State militants, outside Baghuz, Syria, March 4, 2019. VOA

Tens of thousands of civilians

The siege has also been slowed by the unexpectedly large number of civilians in Baghuz, most of them families of IS members. Over past weeks they have been flowing out, exhausted, hungry and often wounded. The sheer number who emerged — nearly 30,000 since early January, according to Kurdish officials — took the Syrian Democratic Forces by surprise.

Ciyager Amed, an official with the Kurdish-led SDF, said they were searching for any IS militants hiding in tunnels in a riverside pocket in the village of Baghuz. The SDF has not yet announced a victory over IS.

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Associated Press journalists saw SDF soldiers loading women and children into trailer trucks on the hilltop over Baghuz, a sign that evacuations were still underway Wednesday. Black smoke was rising from the village.

On Tuesday, the SDF seized control of the encampment held by IS after hundreds of militants surrendered overnight, signaling the group’s collapse after months of stiff resistance. (VOA)