THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 4 SEPTEMBER, 2014
Eyewitness Documentation of the Genocide of Yezidis by Islamic State Militants
Yezidis fleeing from Islamic State militants
A well documented Dossier on the Genocide of the Yezidi Kurds by the Islamic State Militants was sent to THE CITIZEN by the Kurdistan National Congress. It covers some of the gruesome massacres between August 3-August 24, 2014. The Citizen of course is not in a position to independently confirm the findings of the dossier but is of the considered assessment that there is a great deal in the documented narrative that throws serious light on what is happening in Iraq and the borders of Syria. Excerpts:
Elias, a 59-year-old nurse who escaped in Kocho: “At 11-11.30 (on Friday 15 August) ISIS called all the residents to the secondary school, which has been their headquarters since they came to the village two weeks ago. There they asked that we hand over our money, our mobile phones, and for the women to hand over their jewelers. After about 15 minutes they brought vehicles and started to fill them up with men and boys. They pushed about 20 of us onto the back of a Kia pick-up vehicle and drove us about one kilometer east of the village. They got us off the vehicle by the pool and made us crouch on the ground in a tight cluster and one of them photographed us. I thought then they’d let us go after that, but they opened fire at us from behind us. I was hit in the left knee, but the bullet only grazed my knee.”
“I let myself fall forward, as if I were dead, and I stayed there face down without moving. When the shooting stopped I kept still and after they left, I ran away. Five or six others were also alive and they also ran from the place. The rest were all killed. I know two of them, they were right next to me: Khider Matto Qasem, 28, and Ravo Mokri Salah, about 80 years old. I don’t know who the others were; I was too scared to look around, I couldn’t focus. I don’t know what happened to my family, my wife, my seven children, my son’s wife and their two children; I don’t know if they are dead or alive or where they are. I can’t contact anyone as they took our mobile phones.”
Khider, a 17-year-old student who was the more fortunate ones to get away in Kocho: There was no order, they (ISIS) just filled up vehicles indiscriminately. Me and my cousin, Ghaleb Elias, were pushed into the same vehicle. We were next to each other as they lined us up on the ground. He was killed. He was the same age as me, and worked as daily labourer, mostly in construction. I have no news of what happened to my parents and my four brothers and six sisters. Did they kill them? Did they abduct them? I don’t know anything about them.”
ISIS’s attacks in Kurdistan are continuing in Rojava Kurdistan and on the border Iraq-Syria.When the uprisings began in Syria, the people of Rojava-Kurdistan ("Rojava" is the kurdish word for "west", i.e. West Kurdistan/Northern Syria) took their place in the revolution. The Kurds, along with the Assyrians, Keladanis, Arabs and Armenians began to protect their territories by keeping it outside the conflict. The people of Rojava established their self-administration and have been ruling themselves for over two years.
This situation led to certain chauvinistic forces, namely the Baathist regime and the Salafists (ISIS, Al-Nusra and the Islamic Front), to attack Rojava.
The Turkish state, who does not want the Kurds to be a force in the region, has both supported the attackers and closed of its border with the region to apply an embargo against the Kurds.
Until the middle of 2013, the attacks were sporadic. However, since July of 2013, the ISIS led onslaught has turned into a systematic attempt at annihilation and destruction.
For the past fourteen months, the regions of Cezire, Kobani, Afrin (three Cantons in Rojava-Kurdistan, Syria) and the Kurdish boroughs in Allepo have been under relentless attack. ISIS, has promoted the killing of Kurds as part of the Jihad, and has religiously legitimised the looting of Kurdish property and the taking of Kurdish women as concubines.
With the taking of Mosul, 10th June 2014, ISIS gained many opportunities. On the 2nd of August, ISIS began a new attack against Kurdistan. ISIS attacked the Ezidi (Yezide) town of Sengal and prepared for a massacre. Following this development, YPG forces fought their way through ISIS and reached mount Sengal. Here they created a safe corridor for the hundreds of thousands of Ezidi’s trapped on the mountain without any water or food to cross into Rojava Kurdistan. There are still over ten thousand Ezidis on mount Sengal.
ISIS is now beginning to attack the corridor formed by the YPG. They’re aim is to break this corridor to massacre the remaining people on the mountain. To this end, on the 18th of August ISIS deployed all of its heavy artillery to the Rojava end of the corridor in Je`zaa (town situated on the Syria-Iraq border). According to the information coming through more than 24 YPG fighters lost their life in clashes with ISIS gangs in the Ja`zaa. At least more than 140 ISIS militants were killed in the last five days of heavy clashes in Ja`zaa and the villages of Bêgara, Hemedan, Zerga and Arcê. The ISIS attacks are still continuing. However, the world has turned a blind eye to this resistance and the attacks of ISIS in this region. The Western forces and its public realised just how inhuman this ISIS organisation is during its attacks in Iraq. Against ISIS’s attacks, Iraq and Southern Kurdistan are being supported by Western powers. However, this support is not being offered to the people of Rojava; despite the fact that the most effective resistance against ISIS has been ongoing in Rojava.
The Rojava region is still enduring an embargo. Hundreds of thousands of people in Rojava, including the Yezidis, are awaiting international attention and humanitarian support. The threat of ISIS in Rojava has not been nullified. If ISIS succeeds in its attacks in Rojava, a worse humanitarian tragedy is at the door
During heavy clashes around Sinjar-Mountain are continuing new attacks by ISIS terrorists on the Iraq-Syria border. Clashes broke out between HPG (People's Defence Forces),YBŞ (Shengal Resistance Units) and gangs calling themselves Islamic State (IS) in the area Cezaa (in Arabic Ja`zaa) province, Bêgara, Hemedan, Zerga and Arcê villages. ISIS is trying to seize the security corridor which is protected by YPG between Til Kocer and Sinjar (Shengal). This corridor, created by YPG, prevent greater massacres saved the life of thousands of Kurdish Yezidis.
Meanwhile, heavy clashes broke out between the resistance defending Sinjar and ISIS gangs in the village of Heyalê on 20 August. The HPG (Peoples defence Forces) and YBŞ (Sinjar Resistance units) destroyed few vehicle and killed many gang members and the gangs had to flee from the village. The village has been totally liberated.
Kocho, an Ezidi village inhabited by 250 families, had been surrounded by IS fighters since 3rd August 2014. All personal firearms were initially seized from the Ezidi families upon an order by one of the IS commanders, called Abu Hamza. The same commander issued an ultimatum to the Yezidi villagers with the message: “Convert to Islam or face death within 24 hours”. As the deadline for the imposed ultimatum passed, IS-gangs informed the villagers that nothing would happen to them, regardless of the ultimatum.
Similar ultimatums were imposed in the nearby villages of Tal Qasab and Hatamiya. In the latter village, many Ezidis succeeded in escaping during the first days of the arrival of IS to the area. This resulted in a tightened encirclement of Kocho by way of reinforcing positions at three locations around the village by IS fighters.
On 15th August 2014, IS gangs gathered all villagers in the primary school, which they had turned into their headquarters, and divided men and women into separate groups. The women were taken to an unidentified location and their whereabouts are still unknown.
The boys and men were pushed into the back of a KIA pick-up vehicle, in groups of 20-25 persons, and driven away to a location between 500-1000m from the village. At least three groups were taken away in this way. The boys and men were lined up and forced to crouch on the ground in a tight cluster. One ISIS gangs filmed them, and then several other ISIS terrorists opened fire under while screaming Allahu Akbar in Arabic ('God is Great'). The youngest victim was 10-12 years old and the oldest was an 80 year-old man.
Several of the victims who were wounded but surrounded by dead bodies pretended they were dead and later managed to escape after the ISIS gangs had left the execution scene. Three of the survivors were interviewed by Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser in northern Iraq, Mrs. Donatella Rovera (see testimonies above).
The first statements from victims from Kocho village provide strong testimonies of ISIS attacks against the civilian Ezidi population. The execution of men and boys and the hostage taking of women must be investigated thoroughly as they constitute grave breaches of international criminal law and international humanitarian law. The element of “intention” must be properly investigated in this regard (to see if it conforms to the 'intent' stated in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the
Crime of Genocide, 1948) as the information collected until now strongly indicates that the attack on the Ezidis of Kocho-village may amount to an act of genocide. The broad and systematic attack on Ezidi civilians between 3rd to 17th August 2014 must also be carefully documented and investigated.
After the Islamic State (IS), also known by the acronyms ISIS, ISIL and DAISH, attacked regions west of Mosul city in Nineveh governorate on 3rd August 2014, more than 450,000 people were displaced. Most of them belonged to the rich mosaic of minority communities in the region. The Sinjar region has for thousands of years been the homeland of several ancient religious communities and minority faiths such as the Yazidis, Christians, Kakais and Chaldeans. Ethnic communities such as Arabs, Assyrians, Kurds and Turkmens make up most of its population. This rich and diverse geographic area is an essential part of ancient Mesopotamia.
On 3rd August 2014, IS armed forces took control of the Sinjar region after a large attack that caused an unexpected withdrawal by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.Without any early warning or evacuation plans, the minority communities of the region fled in panic, fearing deadly attacks and persecution by the radical jihadist group. More than 200,000 Ezidis in Sinjar city fled to Mount-Sinjar, a 100 km-long mountain range. Those who were left behind in the city and in adjacent villages were taken hostage or killed in summary executions. Following the mass exodus of the Ezidis, the international community saw a grave humanitarian crisis unfold, as IS fighters encircled the mountain area from all sides. Close to 50,000 Ezidis were trapped on Mount-Sinjar without access to food, water, medicine or shelter.
As Mount-Sinjar was in the proximity of the Syrian border, a Syrian Kurdish armed group, People’s Defense Forces, YPG, intervened during the first 48 hours to opena humanitarian corridor from where the Ezidis could reach help in Syria, after 12-24 hours of walking. Many elderly and children died of dehydration or exhaustion. Iraqi and Kurdish authorities, together with UN agencies and humanitarian organisations, sought desperate measures to reach the stranded Ezidis by airdrops of humanitarian aid. As the world had turned its attention to Mount-Sinjar to engage in concerted efforts for delivering aid and life-saving assistance, IS fighters perpetrated a mass killing in an Ezidi village 15km south of Sinjar city.