NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — Last week, President Obama launched air strikes and humanitarian missions over Northern Iraq in response to ISIL actions against the Yazidi people. ISIS, an Islamic fundamentalist group challenging the Shiite government in Iraq, has previously attacked other regions, including Baghdad.
The Yazidi are ethnically Kurdish and live in the northern region of Iraq. Living in isolated communities, the group has historically seen high rates of poverty and attacks on its population. They do not follow Islam. In fact, their religion existed before Islam and Christianity, but combines aspects of those religions with Zoroastrianism. Based on the covenants of its religion, the Islamic State, ISIL, labels the Yazidi as “devil-worshippers” and uses this to justify targeting them.
In order to gain refuge from ISIL attacks, the Yazidi escaped to Mount Sinjar. However, ISIL forces surrounded the area, enslaved women, killed men and left thousands without access to food and water. According to a senior administrative official, “It is [ISIL’s] mission to ethnically cleanse areas of anyone it disagrees with.” U.S. News and World Report characterized ISIL aggression as “a literally genocidal attack in legal terms.”
The United Nations labeled this as the highest level of humanitarian crisis.
The U.S., United Kingdom and Kurds have given humanitarian aid to Iraqis near Mount Sinjar. Through airline drops, the U.S. gave enough food and water to feed 8,000 people. Drone strikes ordered by President Obama successfully destroyed armed trucks owned by ISIL. Airstrikes also targeted ISIL checkpoints and artillery near the mountain.
Airstrikes and humanitarian aid against ISIL have been hailed as a success. The U.S. forces are working to stall and prevent further ISIL aggression against the Yazidi people. The Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, credits these U.S. airstrikes and humanitarian aid with allowing thousands of Yazidi to escape from the Islamist militants and prevent future attacks. Of the thousands of Yazidi who remain on Mount Sinjar, they are relatively unharmed.
As such, President Obama announced that no further airstrikes will be ordered. However, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel suggested that military operations in Iraq are “not complete.”
Though the situation is better than U.S. officials expected, the thousands of Yazidi on the mountain are still removed from their home, and thousands of others are refugees in Iraqi Kurdistan. The U.S. plans to work alongside international forces to aid the Yazidi.
The coalition of multiple nations in dealing with an imminent humanitarian crisis evidences the effectiveness of humanitarian aid. Several thousand have been kept from starvation and protected from attacks by ISIL.
– Tara Wilson