Weeks of Yazidi Tragedy – The Road of Salvation is Opened by PKK (2-3)
Reportage: Saman Nouh
Duhok – In the last point that separates the Western side of Sinjar Mountain from the desert controlled by ISIS militants, where Kurdish soldiers stationed, Khajo Ismael, a women of above seventy years, sat down, waiting for a vehicle to carry her to the Syrian side of the borderlines.
Khajo says: “Once again, there are survivors who will bear the spirit of the Yazidi people till the Day of Judgment.”
But her thirty years old son, MyassarKhidr, seems less optimistic than her as he summarizes the scene of the disaster which inflected the followers of Yazidi religion at the hands of the Islamic State as follows: “The ones who should have protected us simply let us down! The withdrew and left us alone facing the flood. . . We were betrayed by some tribes whom we always considered our brothers.”
Khidr is about to break in tears as he remembers the tragedy which befell his people; “they put 300 Yazidi person in a trap which is never known by any people before. Our villages became slaughter-houses, we were besieged from all directions, and they wanted our heads and honor. . . we had nowhere to go but this tough mountain.”
Sijnar Mountain was the only haven for survival from death at the hands of the Islamic State militants, to escape the “raids” which continued to target the Yazidi towns and villages whose people are accused of “Satan Worship” who were later buried after “mass killing shows” in graves in the villages at the hands of militants who execute some ‘High Orders” which allow looting all that comes in their hands and enslave any women that they desire, according to testimonies of tens of survivors.
But the rocky mountain which extends for about 75 kilometers, which harbored about 30,000 families, also witnessed the death of hundreds of people in its passages and caves, of those who fled from the armies of the Caliphate State which gave itself the right to extinguish an entire population in their mother land where they lived since thousands of years.
Genocide on the Pace of Collapse
Everything happened in hours, when the Peshmerga forces left their locations after some orders from the leadership to withdrew from a battle that seemed unequal with hundreds of Islamic State militants who are well-armed with the weapons they took in June 10, when they took over Mousil City, and won all the equipment left by the Iraqi Army.
Waheed Khalil, a Yazidi man who participated in the fight; “After midnight, we found ourselves alone in the battle, the Peshmerga forces withdrew without telling us… we fough in SibaShaikhKhidr, and Karazrak (to the South of Sinjar) for more than four hours, but everything fell down when our ammunition was over and the continuous mortar shells falling on the houses… we were forced to leave our places to save our families.”
Officials in the Syrian-Kurdish “People Guards” Forces assert that 700 members of Peshmerga have left their locations in Rabi’aaDistrcit and Sinjar and resorted to the Syrian side of the boarders through Kojar Hill and other places. This story matches with the testimonies of Yazidi displaced persons and some videos featuring Kurdish soldiers crossing the Iraqi-Syrian borderlines with their vehicles, in spite of the appeals of the people to them to keep fighting and not to leave.
Before this collapse and the movement of tens of thousands of frightened people to the Mountain, fighting was impossible, then dozens of militants scattered on the cliffs and slopes of the mountains overlooking the city to prevent the Islamic State forces from advancing to the Mountian whose roads and passages were overcrowded with people who had a chance to flee.
Khalil continues: “Before the dawn, we saw the front-lights of their cars which carried middle calibration weapons as they entered Sinjar, tens of them progressed in long lines. Those have killed anybody they met whether Yazidi or Shiite. Few hours later, they transferred the deserted weapons, and looted anything valuable they found, and took it towards Talaafar and Mousil”.
Looting continued in the following couple of days, and this gave a feeling that the Islamic State is not thinking of staying in the city, and that it is planning to leave, but that was associated with the mobilization of enough forces of Peshmerga towards the city to take it back, “and this is what never happened.”
Fleeing From Death to Death
The massive exodus of the population of the city with the terrifying moments of its attack never left any chance to think of what the displaced people may need in their journey towards the safe areas. Most of them did not remember that in the Mountain there is no source of water and no food supplies of whatever kind.
DikheelKrete: “We went out under threats of death with no active senses, our senses were not thinking of anything but saving our souls, we forgot everything else, we found ourselves, hours later, just running away from death to death.”
Wasi Aziz, who ran away with her family from Tal Azeer few minutes before it was invaded, and spent five days on feet before she reached Syria. She said: “Bombs were falling on our heads, nobody thought of carrying a bottle of water, some wheat or rice. . . we ran out bread in the first day, and spent three days without food, death was closer to us than any other thing.”
“The first day was charged with contradicting feelings, fear from death, shock of the spectacular event, fear from the unknown future. . . Questions continued to raise with no answers, how all this happened? Who stayed in the city? Who of the family didn’t make to run and survive?” Says YassirNawaf, a Yazidi civil activist: “Some people accuse the Peshmerga forces of selling them to ISIS.”
The next day, anger increased with the spread of the news of “mass killing and women kidnapping” and with the realization of the displaced people that they are threatened by starvation and death out of thirst, and that the Peshmerga forces left all the area fall at the hand of ISIS which is surrounding the entire mountain of Sinjar.
With the pass of hours without the rise of the “Savior” and with the gradual stopping of cell-phones, families started to divide into groups on the mountain places that give some shades, and began to create some methods to prolong their members’ ability to resist death in a very tough environment, and high temperature which exceeds 45 Celsius degrees in the day time.
Some people began to look for water in the engines of the cars left in the Mountain entrance, others on wells that have never been used since ages, and in stinking fountains.
The flocks of sheep that arrived alive to the mountain were slaughtered in the first day, eaten raw, or roasted if wood was available. In the next days, they began grinding some available grains of wheat, mixed them with water to feed the children.
RustimRambusi, a primary school teacher who spent 26 hours with his younger brother, wife and two daughters to escape from his village to the mountain: “we were threatened by the patrols of the armed men, we found seven dead bodies in two different places in the road that we took.”
“We arrived in the evening, completely exhausted, touching the place with our hands to know where are we, we found families sleeping on the ground, when you come closer, we could see people stretching and lying all along the mountin, and you couldn’t say whether they are sleeping or dead. . . we lied down near a family which made a fire after they collected some hey. . in the late hours of the night, the cries of hungry children continued to break the silence which surrounded all.”
Rambusi continued: “In the morning of the fifth day, I saw my cousin. She was putting her baby, who didn’t yet finish his first year,in her arms and bitterly crying. He stopped breathing, hours later we managed to convince her to bury him in the rocks, since nobody was able to dig a grave for him.”
In the following days, the displaced people remained waiting for a news that never came, telling them that a way to survive was opened to them, and for the awaited rescue airplanes, their talks were only about the places where they could find water, about how many missing members in their families, and about the numbers of the people who died in the mountain. With the severe exhaustion, and the lack of strength and ability to walk “despair pushed many children and elderly people to surrender to death.”
According to Parliamentary sources, and media sources, some statistics were presented on the basis of phone calls received from people in the Mountain, in the first three days of displacement, about 40 children and more than 27 old persons died out of the shortage of water, food and lack of medicine.
But the numbers were doubled many times in the following days, and a Yazidi fighter who was present for days nearby the Holy Yazidi Shrine of Sharafuldeen in Sinjar Mountain, and he himself buried many victims, estimated the dead as hundreds. He said: “whenever you walked in a way, you find some stones gathered over some dead bodies, you cannot count them. . . you seldom find a family who did not lose an old one or a child.”
Waiting for the Airplanes
Before the end of the first week of the fall of Sinjar, and with the increase of the news of the arrival of Iraqi airplanes carrying food and water, the capacity of the displaced people to resist death increased.
NayifKrete said: “That was a spark of hope, we waited for the aids for six days, many people died, but I managed to save my family’s life, I was running hundreds of meters after what the airplanes throw on us from far, we waved our hands to them, and ran after them in all directions. . . the aids were damaged as they crush down, but they saved thousands of people.”
Krete considered the successive arrival of airplanes and the US decision to interfere a last life-boat for them: “we spent eleven days, children were falling like autumn leaves, as they walk bare-feet on the rocky passages, many of them slept but never woke up again.”
Opening a Way to Salvation
Seven days after the control of the Islamic State over all Sinjar lands, except for its mountain, the militants affiliated with the PKK managed to secure a passage which runs for some kilometers from the western side of the mountain towards tor Syrian borders, this enabled more than 100.000 Yazidi person to survive.
Salih Muslim, the Democratic Union Party director, said: “after less than one week to the opening of the passage, i.e., August 9, we can speak of 100.000 person who crossed from there to Syria, most of them came back and entered the Iraqi territories via Fishkhaboorcrossing point, but about 12000 stayed in Syria in a camp.”
Muslim confirmed in August 21 that “the displaced people is continuous on daily basis, and there are thousands of people who are still stuck in the mountain.”
KhidrDoumali, a Yazidi activist, asserts the same information saying: “Thousands of people are still waiting for rescue in the mountain, no numbers can be specified, there are some who couldn’t walk, and there are disabled sick people, and there are some who do not want to get back and prefer to stay and join dozens of Yazidisoliders who are confronting ISIS with very simple weapos, to protect the Holy Shrine of Sharafuldeen in the Mountain.”
In spite of the salvation represented by the opening of that passage to about 150000 persons who were besieged in a big trap for two weeks, after their towns were turned into a big slaughter-houses, lawyer HadiKhalaf, one of those who decided to remain in the mountain, is concerned that this passage is “the beginning of the end of the Yazidi people in their mother land” and the start of a long journey of anguish into the unknown.
Carrying a Kalashnikov machine-gun in his hands, Khalaf said: ” We were here since thousands of years, and we cannot make a new country for ourselves. . . It is a big tragedy to complete in our hands the scheme planned to terminate us, it is a big calamity to depart and surrender to armies coming from the darkness of deserts.”
But Khalaf’s voice is hardly heard amid the horror created by the militants ofthe State of Caliphate, and the equation of “murder or departure” they imposed Sinjar and its surroundings which can be easily penetrated with the presence of hundreds of militants from the Arabic tribes who support the State who are keen on the spoils of their conquests, and with absence of Kurdistan’s support to the Yazidi people especially in weapons and ammunitions.”
ThariQadir, a researcher, summarizes the scene as follows: “Sinjar was left alone in confrontation with hungry beasts which devour anything they meet in their way, these beasts increase in number and power everyday till they become a threat to the entire area, and it is no longer useful to besiege them, or to work individually to destroy them.”
This report was conducted with the support of the Iraqi Investigative Press Network (NIRIJ).