Thousands of Yazidis being subjected to ‘almost unimaginable violence’

Around 3,200 Yazidi women and girls are being held captive by ISIL, and thousands of men and boys are missing. It comes two years after the extremist group first began its genocide against the minority with its attack on the city of Sinjar on August 3, 2016.

A Yazidi refugee fleeing Iraq woman carries her son on her back at the Turkish-Iraqi border on August 17, 2014. Ulas Yunus Tosun/EPA
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BAGHDAD // Thousands of Yazidis are being held captive by ISIL in Syria where they are being “subjected to almost unimaginable violence,” the United Nations said on Wednesday, on the second anniversary of what investigators termed a genocide.

A UN-appointed commission of independent war crimes investigators said in June that ISIL was committing genocide against the Yazidis, a religious community of 400,000 people in northern Iraq, beginning with an attack on their city of Sinjar on August 3, 2014.

The UN said most of the captives have been taken to neighbouring Syria “where Yazidi women and girls continue to be sexually enslaved and Yazidi boys indoctrinated, trained and used in hostilities”.

Around 3,200 Yazidi women and girls are being held captive, and thousands of men and boys are missing.

“Our community is still suffering after more than two years,” said Mirza Danai, founder of the German-Iraqi aid organisation Luftbrucke Irak. “We have been neglected and ignored by all the powers in the region.”

The Yazidis – an isolated religious minority that combines elements of Islam, Zoroastrianism and Christianity – have been repeatedly persecuted by successive governments and invading armies.

The ISIL attack on Sinjar in August 2014 in part prompted the US-led coalition to begin launching air strikes against the extremists in Iraq and initiate a broader fight against the group in both Iraq and Syria.

ISIL has since lost a third of the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria, according to the coalition.

The designation of genocide against the Yazidis, rare under international law, would mark the first recognised genocide carried out by non-state actors, rather than a state or paramilitaries acting on its behalf.

Historical victims of genocide include the Armenians in 1915, Jews during the Nazi Holocaust, Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 and Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995.

* Reuters, Associated Press