Yazidis from northern Iraq are struggling to overcome the nightmares that befell them at the hands of ISIS militants. Many have attempted to rebuild homes and lives shattered by ISIS. Yet for others who have left Iraq, the history of ISIS’ atrocities committed against their friends, neighbours and families means a return to their homes is impossible.
According to a Yazidi refugee in Greece, it is this lasting memory of the barbarous acts of murder and slaughter that are preventing him from returning home. He is one of approximately 1000 Yazidis living in Greece who remember that fateful day.
“We were killed and persecuted and forced to leave our country,” said the man. “We did not leave for a better life, and we did not leave because of poverty. We left because our country has disappeared.”
On the 1st August 2014, ISIS militants entered the district of Sinjar and set about brutally rounding up men, women and children. Hundreds were executed in the first few days of the terrorist group’s arrival after militants dug trenches and executed people en masse, leaving their corpses in mass graves.
According to the Directorate of Yazidi Affairs, 43 mass graves have been found in Sinjar and its surrounding areas and sub-districts in what the United Nations has labelled a “genocidal campaign” against the Yazidi people. The Directorate even puts the number of killed following ISIS’ arrival into the city in 2014 at 9,000 people.
Furthermore, 6800 people were abducted for sexual slavery or to be used as combatants, while more than 3,000 Yazidi women and girls with about 1,500 children were captured to be sold in slave markets across then ISIS-held territory. Many female Yazidi victims who escaped the group’s rule have spoken out about their traumatic experiences.
One Yazidi girl even recounts the moment that militants entered her home, as her father tried to protect her mother. “They took us inside our house in the village and pointed the gun at my father’s head,” said the girl. “He told them he wanted to bring my mother but they stopped him. I cannot say more than that.”
Despite the liberation of numerous towns and villages in majority Yazidi areas in northern Iraq, like the village of Kocho, thousands of Yazidis still remain unaccounted for. This comes amidst desperate pleas by Yazidis to the international community to help bring those responsible for these heinous crimes to justice.