BAGHDAD , Iraq— The Iraqi government has been seeking aid for thousands of minority Iraqis who have been stranded with little food on a mountaintop in the country’s north, surrounded by Islamic State rebels.
For about two months, Kurdish fighters had protected the area from the jihadist fighters, but they experienced their first setbacks in the Sinjar region, which forced thousands of Iraqis to flee.
Around 10,000 to 40,000 people have sought refuge on Mount Sinjar, mostly members of the minority Yazidi Kurds. They are afraid of going into areas controlled by the Islamic State, who consider them traitors.
The U.S. dropped two air-drops of food and water to thousands of Iraqis hiding in the mountains after they launched air strikes against the Islamic State.
The United Kingdom is also focused on humanitarian efforts. They are finding ways to rescue the displaced Iraqis who are trapped.
The Yazidi Kurds are a minority group in northern Iraq. The religion of the Yazidis has elements of various faiths, including Zoroastrianism. Some Muslims and other groups, including the Islamic State fighters, see the Yazidi Kurds as “devil worshippers” because of their unique practices and beliefs. There are around 500,000 Yazidis worldwide, most of which live in Iraq’s Nineveh area. Leaders of the Islamic State have warned the Yazidi Kurds that they are at risk of being starved into extermination or massacred.
One account from the Yazidi Kurds tells the story of a beekeeper who fears that his minority group is facing genocide.
Fares Sinjari Abu Ivan was hopeful when he saw the Iraqi military helicopter dropping supplies. He thought his mother would finally have food for the first time in two days.
However, the supplies landed in the middle of his beehive farm which nobody can go into because they do not have their protective gear.
Abu Ivan said a group of displaced Iraqis have been living in the mountains to hide from the jihadist fighters. He explained they are saving their phone batteries in order to communicate with government and other agencies.
“We are exhausted because we are starving,” he said. “There is nothing here.”
When the Islamic State fighters approached Sinjar on Saturday, he sent his daughter and wife away to safety to the city of Dohuk, in neighboring Kurdistan. However, his mother is 80 years old and can barely walk, so he took her with her up to the mountains.
Some people attempted to escape the violence in Iraq but have had mixed outcomes. Abu Ivan spoke to some refugees who made it Turkey. Some encountered Islamic State fighters on their way and unfortunately, some were killed and others returned to the mountain.
Combatants from the Turkish Kurdish rebel group, PKK, said they had successfully evacuated numerous families to Syria after securing a safe passage.
“Today we had at least one gift from the sky however,” Abu Ivan said. “An Iraqi plane saved us, it hit Daash gunmen as they were heading our way, very close to finding us.”
– Colleen Moore