The Yazidi ethnic group is one the oldest in Mesopotamia, with a current population of around 600,000 in Iraq of which 400,000 inhabited the district of Sinjar and 200,000 lived elsewhere in Nineveh and Dohuk Province prior to the events of August 3rd, 2014. On that day, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) brutally attacked and occupied the Sinjar area after Iraqi Kurdish Forces (Peshmarga) abruptly withdrew. The fall of Sinjar led to the chaotic exodus of all Yazidis from Sinjar District where at least 150,000 fled to the autonomous Kurdish Region and thousands became entrapped on Mt. Sinjar and its adjacent villages.
The surrounded Yazidis endured grim conditions with little food or water for many days. The assistance that came in the form of US airstrikes and extraordinary help from Yazidi rescuers and Syrian Kurdish Protection Units (YPG) finally broke the desperate siege on Mt. Sinjar. Many more people, mostly children, infants and the elderly, died of dehydration and exposure during their ordeal on the mountain and the evacuation process.
This catastrophe displaced the vast majority of the Sinjar District population to Iraqi Kurdistan, Syrian Kurdistan, and Turkey. Moreover, Yazidis from the Nineveh plain towns of Bashiqa, Bahzani, Mahad, Shikhan and other villages were forced to flee as well when their areas left undefended. The displaced Yazidi community continues to face a humanitarian crisis; tens of thousands are homeless and unsupported and suffer from malnutrition and health issues. Yazidi children are the most vulnerable group. Since the beginning of this crisis, ISIL has murdered more than 3,000 Yazidi men and sold thousands of Yazidi women into sexual slavery. ISIL has also committed crimes of rape and sexual violence against thousands of Yazidi women and children in captivity. ISIL abducted at least 5000 Yazidis during their assault on Sinjar, mostly women and children and has relocated abductees to different regions where they are offered for sale as sexual slaves. To date, dozens of women have been killed in captivity while many others have committed suicide.
In addition to ISIL crimes against humanity, as part of its desecration of religion in the region, the group has also destroyed numerous Yazidi holy sites at Bahzani, Bashiqa, and Sinjar. Unlike other Iraqi ethnic groups, ISIL has only given the Yazidis captives two options: convert to Islam or die. Based on all the available data, compelling evidence suggests that a genocide took place against the Yazidi ethnic group in Sinjar District whose scale has yet to be fully accounted for as the Sinjar region remains contested and mass graves remain under ISIL control. We urge the international community to recognize ISIL’s campaign against the Yezidi people as an act of genocide.