Iraqi Yazidis Reportedly Facing Death Threats From Islamic State

Aug 6, 2014
Originally published on August 6, 2014 2:54 pm

In northern Iraq, tens of thousands of religious minority Yazidis are stranded in the mountains and besieged by radical Islamic militants, and 70 children reportedly have died from violence and dehydration.

NPR's Alison Meuse reports on the trapped Yazidis:

"UNICEF says up to 25,000 children are stranded in multiple locations without food or water.

"Housam Salim, who heads a local Yazidi NGO, says the Islamic State is blocking all land routes. He says the Iraqi army tried to airlift supplies to the minority communities, but the militants attacked the helicopters with anti-aircraft weapons.

"Meanwhile, the Islamic State is publishing gruesome photos of its conquest of nearby Yazidi villages. One shows more than a dozen men lying face down as a gunman takes aim. It reads: 'If you meet the nonbelievers, smite them in the neck.' "

The Islamic State's militants are aligned with Sunni Islam and consider believers of all other faiths — including Yazidis, ethnic Kurds whose ancient religion is derived from Zoroastrianism — to be infidels who deserve death, Reuters reports.

"[Jabbar Yawar, secretary-general of the ministry in charge of the Kurdish peshmerga fighters] said 50,000 Yazidis now hiding on a mountain risked starving to death if they were not rescued within 24 hours.

" 'Urgent international action is needed to save them. Many of them, mainly the elderly, children and pregnant women, have (already) died," he said. "We can't stop the Islamic State from attacking the people on the mountain because there is one paved road leading up to the mountain and it can be used by them. They (Islamic State fighters) are trying to get to that road.'

"There are no signs that revived military cooperation between the Kurdish Regional Government and the Baghdad government has eased the dangers posed by the Islamic State."

The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday condemned the attacks on Iraqi minorities: "Widespread or systematic attacks directed against any civilian populations because of their ethnic background, religion or belief may constitute a crime against humanity, for which those responsible must be held accountable."

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