The Yazidi region of Sinjar (Shingal) which is situated in Nineveh Province, Northern Iraq has been a subject of disputes between Iraq’s central authority and Kurdistan Regional Government.
Founded in 2014, the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) from the very beginning of its activities chose those points as a target that were more important and at the same time less controllable.
For so-called Islamic state Sinjar was the most convenient place to be deployed in Iraq. It is out of military control, does not have formal mechanisms of protection and due to its high geografical position is able to become a base for the further progress of the organization. ISIS had indirectly challenged the resistance of the Yazidis in the Iraqian city of Raqqa yet in 2014, perodically provoking violences against the Yazidis which resluted in the death of dozens of them.
ISIS terorists invaded Sinjar on 3 August 2014 and forced the whole Yazidi population to emigrate in a few days. This deportation was accompanied by massive cruel killings and tortures. As a corollary 20 000 Yazidis were killed. They were buried in fraternal cemeteries, over 6000 girls, women and children were taken captives and enslaved, then sold to the markets in the territories subject to ISIS. During the terrorist act 12 Yazidi cathedrals and sanctuaries were exploded in the villages of Bashiqa and Bahzan in the provinces of Sinjar and Mosul.
ISIS terrorists substantiate the massive killings of the Yazidis noting that they are devil-worshippers. It is mentioned in the ISIS official Dabiq magazine: ”The members of ISIS have restored the 1400-year long injustice and have destroyed the Yazidis in Sinjar because the Yazidis worship Satan who didn’t incline before Adam”. There is also mentioned that it is researched in Sharia (islamic law) teaching schools whether the Yazidis may again become followers of Islam or the slaughter against them must be continued.
Whereas the Yazidi religious philosophy preachs kindness and sees the divine truth in the light. That’s why a Yazidi religion follower starts the day with a prayer to God. This fact has become an occasion for misunderstanding in the works of many authors and among radical islamists. They unrightfully consider the Yazidism to be devil worship. According to a Yazidi religious interpretation the sun is a source of warmness and light. The world would be plunged into darkness, the existence of life would be impossible without it. The fact that the Yazidis incline before the sun does not mean they worship the sun, not God. The same priciple exists in Islam as well. The Muslims incline in direction of the holy city of Mecca but is does not mean that they worship Mecca, not Allah.
ISIS invaded in Shingal on 3 August 2014. The terrorists entered the region from the village of Siba Sheikh Khidr and soon sieged the nearby villages. Hours later the Kurdish Peshmerga (military forces) left the region without resistance and only dozens of Yazidi civilians struggled against the Islamic State. Seeing the withdrawal of Kurdish Peshmerga ISIS militants took the villages of Til Benat and Til Aziz under their control. The Yazidi population of Sinjar tried to seek asylum on Mount Sinjar. The flow of refugees to Mount Sinjar occured under the intensive shootings of ISIS terrorists.
After the capture of the villages ISIS terrorists started to move to the center of Sinjar region. The civil forces of Sinjar launched local self-defense battles. Even though these battles didn’t influence the further development of the events, the Yazidi women, childen and old men managed to leave the town with less losses. The resistance of the village Siba Sheikh Khidr lasted until the ammunition of home guard ended and all the civilians died. The other part of population moved to Sinjar. It was too hot both on the mount and on the road, there was no food and water. Mount Sinjar was the only opportunity to survive and the habitants tried to reach there imperceptibly.
During the attack ISIS fighters usually offered the population to convert to islam, separated women, men and children, shot men and old men, enslaved children, young women and girls.
According to the report of the Amnesty ISIS militants took women and children to Mosul, Tal Afar as well as cities of Syria by groups where they were kept in special isolation cells under inhuman conditions.
The genocide against the Yazidis is just one part of historical events that is conditioned by the existence of intolerance towards the Yazidis in the Middle East.
Among the causes of the genocide of Yazidis in August 2014 we can mention the following ones: atmosphere of intolerance against the Yazidis, the uncertain status of Sinjar due to which de facto and de jure it didn’t have systematic mechanisms of protection, the territorial pretensions of the Kurdish Autonomy over Sinjar and the escape of Kurdish Peshmerga from the region, the antipathy among the Yazidis against living in Iraq due to intolerance, as a result they didn’t stay and didn’t struggle massively against the military occupation of the region by ISIS.
According to different sources during the genocide about 20 000 Yazidis were killed, 6000 women were enslaved and were exposed to systematic violence, 12 Yazidi cathedrals were demolished. The whole world reacted these events. Famous international news agencies spoke about the Yazidis, human rights organizations, international structures, state leaders made condemning anncouncements.
Armenia reacted the Sinjar genocide as well. The Armenian Yazidis organized protests, collected money, took measures to stop the genocide and eliminate the consequences. Armenian activists, NGO-s also reacted the genocide. Three civil initiatives were created consisting of Armenians and Yazidis who tried to take measures to facilitate the situation. The Artsakh government officially expressed its readiness to accept the Yazidi refugees and give them shelter.
The Armenian president Serj Sarkisyan condemned the Yazidi genocide in his speech to the UN General Assembly comparing it with the Armenian genocide in 1915. All these events influenced the Yazidis’ national self-consciousness in Armenia. The number of Yazidis participating in protests and collecting money increased. The Yazidi community of Armenia started to become part of all-Yazidi social and political initiatives.
According to us the further existence of Yazidis in Iraq may be assured by creation of security zone where the Yazidis will be able to protect themselves. Taking into account the presence of other ethnoreligious minorities in Sinjar we regard as possible creation of unitary zone for all that groups which will give them opportunity to protect their security.
We also think that in the future in the struggle of Yazidis for overcoming the Sinjar crisis the Yazidi community of Armenia will play a decisive role.
Translated by Aida Grigoryan , Mijerita Khachatryan and Anna Arzumanyan