It was the mother land and the last haven for the followers of Yazidi religion, but it is today a deserted land on whose roads the bodies of the murdered ones are scattered, whereas the vehicles of Caliphate pass through those roads, carrying hundreds of its sons, who are sentenced to death, to their mass-graves. From far appear the processions of the captivated women as they bid the city a farewell, en route to the bastions of “the Princes of Mujahideen”.
Before the dawn of Sunday, August 3rd, the scene of a flood of vehicles heading towards the mountain which lies at the edge of the desert, was a frightening one. WaleedAlaw, a shepherd who used to take his sheep to graze around the boarders of the mountain early every morning, stood bewildered at the sight of a “river of lights that penetrate the darkness of night.”
These lights were the front lights of cars carrying tens of thousands of panic people racing towards the mountain which represented a haven of salvation from an inevitable death.
With the first beams of sunlight, groups of families exhausted by walking as they did not find any car to carry them, arrived at the entries of the mountain roads.
The worried eyes were swiftly moving from the seeable horizon of the rocky mountain which stands on the desert gate, and the road that extends till the “distressed city” investigating every new-comer lest it appears to be the ISIS big army, with their very fast vehicles which assault like an army of locusts attacking a field of grains.
Few hours later, thousands of families crowded at the mountain roads, with their elderly ones and children fatigued and exhausted. So, they gathered near the mountain slots which could give some shades to escape the sun heat, meanwhile, sounds of fore shooting was heard from far away.
Tens of thousands scattered in every available spot, waiting the scene to end up in a certain way, between the arrival of the Peshmerga troops to save them, or the arrival of ISIS men to assault on them. But the latter option seemed more imminent as the sounds of gunshots coming from the suburbs of the city began to get closer. Stories of massive murders, rape of girls, began to circulate rapidly via the mobile phones which never stopped bringing shocking news.
The Mountain. . . The Only Haven
With the disappearance of Peshmerga, and their withdrawal towards the Syrian territories, KhairiHassu, a Yazidi fighter in his forties, knew that his sect is facing another massacre which will be added to the 72 ones which are engraved in the collective memory of the Yazidi people who documented them in their heritage and their folksongs.
At that moments, Hassu, who witnessed the grand displacement of millions of the Kurdish population in the reign of the ex-regime of Saddam Husseinin 1991, decided to transfer his family to deepest area of the mountain land and get ready to a battle with death. He said: “They want to terminate us, and this cruel mountain is our last resort, as it used to be in all previous massacres.”
The same decision was taken by thousands of other people. The scenes of Shiite Turkmen fleeing from death in the neighboring district of Talaafar about two months ago are still evident in the eyes of Sinjar inhabitants, whether Yazidis, Muslims, or Christians, Kurds or Turkmen. This pushed them to flee, without much thinking, so as to escape the merciless murder at the hands of unscrupulous enemy, leaving everything behind, including the memories of a long history of co-existence.
Moments of Collapse
During the week that preceded the attack on area, the movements of ISIS troops were not normal. Their crowds continued since the end of Ramadhan’s month, through the FitrEid, everybody in the gatherings of population in Southern areas of Sinjar expected an attack, but the warnings made by the inhabitants of the area, and their calls for weapons were not answered by the leaders of the Peshmerga forces.
What happened was shocking, according to DawoodQalluwhi witnessed the events of the last hours before the fall of Sinjar at the hands of the Islamic State militants; “After 2:00 a.m. the shelling of mortars increased on the compounds of Siba Shi Khudr, Tall Azeer and Kerzak, at the same time, the Peshmerga forces withdrew and left the inhabitants of the area fighting alone with their light weapons, and little ammunition which did not last for three hours, and then everything collapsed.”
With the collapse of resistance in these areas, ISIS militants broke through theses gatherings of compounds with about 40 vehicles, killing anyone who may meet in the streets, men, women and children. When the news of genocide reached to Sinjar, the situation collapsed completely even before ISIS arrives to the city.
Qallu never hesitates to accuse the security officials of treason: “We trusted them but they let us down! They did not deliver their weapons and ammunition to us to fight, and they did not use them to fight, they were the first to run away with their military vehicles through Syria. . . they sold us to ISIS.”
The terror created by the massacres, and the “suspicious withdrawal” of Peshmerga from their locations in the city and from the headquarters of Kurdish political parties caused all possibilities of resistance in Sinjar. The roads to the mountain became overcrowded, whereas others ran away towards Duhok and Zakho cities of Kurdistan region, and towards the Syrian borderlines. Hundreds of families were not able to escape because they did not have cars, or for having someone in the family who is sick or a crippled old person.
Those were the first victims of ISIS, because within hours tens of young men were killed, and hundreds of women were captivated and taken as slaves to ISIS detention centres in Ba’ajl; Talaafar and Mousil.
Treasons, Theft and Looting
“Few Yazidi people survived the massacre of ISIS that morning” says Ahmed Ali, a Muslim Kurd who left Sinjar when he saw his neighbor guiding a group of Islamic State militants to the houses of Yazidis and Shiites in their district of mixed population, while others were busy stealing the belongings of the latters.”
Ali directly headed to Mousil through side-ways which led him, two days later, to Duhok city, along with his family and Nora, the only survivor from the massacre that happened to her family as they were late enough to depart from Sinjar.
Nora, aged 15 years, was hiding in a bundle of hey when the gunmen of ISIS broke through the house of her family, they sound non-Iraqis as they spoke with an accent. They killed her brother and her old father as they resisted the attempts of ISIS men to take her sister and her mother as slaves.
Hiding her face with the edges of a scarf that covers her head: “I no longer have anybody, I know nothing about my sister and my mother, nor about my uncles, they may be killed as well. I no longer have anybody in this world.”
QasimEido, one of the few Yazidi people who survived death, spoke about the first hours of ISIS’s control on Sinjar: “They asked us, through the loudspeakers to keep indoors and never leave our houses, asserting that we are safe. We did not believe in them, but there was no way out. Then, they started attacking the houses. They killed any Yazidi young man the saw in their way, they let some men go, women were kidnapped and taken to the headquarters of their troops.”
Killing and Suicide
Within few hours, bodies of tens of men who were killed at random, or killed while defending their daughters who were taken later on as captives, scattered around. Also, ISIS organization kept many old women alive and never hurt them. But Eido’d neighbor, an old woman named Rihan, could not endure what happened to her family, “she went to the roof of the house and threw herself.”
“Even the ones who tried to hide or run away through the side-ways and secret passages could not make it out because of the traitors from the city people who were with ISIS organization.” Hassan Shikho says: “It is a great tragedy which will ignite vengeance and revenge which will take years, after ISIS’s departure.”
Shikho, who asserts that Shiite Muslims, and many Kurdish, Chritian and Turkman families have left the city along with the Yazidis, and accused some people of what he calls “betraying the pacts of blood” among them, “they participated in the attack, they guided the armed troops to our houses and shops seeking spoils of war, I know one of them who always visited me at home and ate my food.”
The Shock of the Fall
The fall and the sudden collapse did not happen by chance, as IssaShammu believes: “They attacked with large numbers of militants a very weak area and took it over, as they did that, they spread rumors by dozens of their advocators to create chaos and panic, and they managed to create a feeling of the impossibility of fighting them.”
Whereas in Talaafar, Talkeif, Hamdaniyya and Birtilla, which are Christian cities taken over by ISIS later, there were some way out, this was not available in Sinjar. Yazidis had no as many choices as those given to Christians. They were besieged and blocked in the mountain, and the ISIS troops blocked all roads between the Mountain and the world.
They had two ways only before them amid the terror prepared for them, either to starve and die of thirst in the Mountain, or to get out of it to be an easy target for the ISIS men who fight well in the open areas.
Two days after the fall of Sinjar, ISIS militants left a girl of twenty years near the northern entry of the mountain. Her voice was so clear and audible, though she was exhausted, she was insisting and begging some men to kill her: “they raped me, many of them. . . the n they left me here. Please kill me.”
“It was clear that they wanted to spread horror in the entire mountain area, and that what they actually did” says Shammu.
One hundred meters from there, a few men dressed in white, with red scarfs on their heads scattered around, with light weapons in their hands, in a desperate effort to prevent the approach of ISIS to the road that leads to the Mountain.
One of them said: “They did the same thing with other girls. They raped them and threw them at the mountain entrance.”
They were not individual events, another girl in a close place also killed herself. She had been raped and let go, according to Kamal Shinkali, who witnessed the suicide, some displaced persons tried to stop her.”
Images published by ISIS organization itself on it webpages, three days after their attack on the city, show mass executions to young men, handcuffed, and shot dead from behind with guns. Some images carried the title “Conquest of Nineveh” show the youths of the district and ISIS men with long birds and untidy hair, some of them appear in Afghani clothes, whereas others faces reveal them to be from East Asian countries.
Sex Slaves Market
The creation of horror does not stop at this. Some civil activists, local officials and MPs revealed that more than 700 Yazidi women were sold in the first week of ISIS control over Sinjar, and founding a sex-slave market in Mousil in which the price of a women ranged from $150 to $500.
According to officials, Yazidi sex-slaves are sold to foreign militants. The time of selling was in the morning and in the afternoon so that the militants are given chance to “have pleasure with women in their leisure time.”
This information was confirmed by the spokesperson of Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, Muhammed al-Ghuzaiy, who said that ISIS organization is “detaining tens of Yazidi and Turkmani women in Talaafar airport, after killing men and children, and they put women for sale in one of Mousil’s markets.”
The writer of this report tried for ten days to verify these information, but any access to the areas where the ISIS are stationed, in the right division of the city where the armed men make their shopping and transactions seemed to be an impossible task, especially in the light of the frequent patrols of ISIS.
In august 13, a trustworthy villager who was an eye-witness living in al-Sa’ahDisrtict in Mousil city, called the reporter and asserted that the armed men took down some women from a mini-bus, exposed them for half an hour, they were dressed in black, meanwhile, about thirty men who appeared to be from Arab and foreign countries, then these women were divided into more than ten cars.
They eye-witness did not assert that what happened was a matter of selling and buying of women, but he was sure that the women were divided on a group of men after being displayed to them.
A Muslim or a Slave
Abu Abdul Malik, a prince assistant in the Islamic State, denied any process of buying and selling of women, and he considers that as a kind of propaganda to distort the image of the Islamic State.
Nevertheless, Abu Abdul Malik, who spoke with the reporter in the phone from Mousil city via some middlemen asserts that “it is alegal right for the Mujahideen of the Islamic State to keep the women of infidels as long as they refuse to get into Islam, and they have the right to get a portion of the spoils of their conquests.”
This price assistant who denied having an idea of Yazidi women who were taken as slaves, admits that there are about 250 women in Mousil who “were Yazidis before they convert to Islam and become free women. . . we gave them two options, either to stay in the houses of Mujahideen, observing all types of legal sharia commitments, such as sex services and housekeeping, or to convert into Islam to become free women.”
Abu Abdul Malik confirmed that all Yazidi women “chose conversion to Islam, and they became free women who could accept or reject any marriage proposal.”
As for those who converted to Islam, he said: “they were given lodging in safe houses under the protection of the State upon their requests, because they could not get back to their families because they will get killed as the entered in Islam, and because their ex-husbands have become legally forbidden for them, according to sharia.”
In August 4th, some Yazidi organizations and the Human Rights Committee in Kurdistan Parliament revealed that 500 Yazidi women from Sinjar were kidnapped. One day later, the same number was confirmed by VianDikheel, an Iraq MP who stood in the Parliament and made an appeal to the world to save 30 000 families who were besieged in Sinjar Mountain form death out of thirst and hunger.
In August 10th, a Yazidi family received a call from one of their kidnapped daughters in which she confirmed that there are more than 200 women with her detained with her in a location in al-Ba’aj District, South of Sinjar. She explained that they are treated as slaves, and the pretty ones of them are taken to “serve the princes.” The girl requested that “the location be bombed by aircrafts so as to end their suffering.”
In August 20th, Muhammed Shia’ al-Sudani, Iraqi Minister of Human Rights, said that ISIS is detaining more than 600 Yazidi girls in the building of al-Athar school in Talaafar, and about 75 Shiia women in Sinjar District. But the Ministry did not pass a record of the numbers of those detained in Badush Prison, and in the concentration centers in Mousil and al-Ba’aj District where ISIS men are keeping hundreds of their captives.
In the same day, Muyassar Haji Salih, governor of Sinjar, said that the number of kidnapped women could be far bigger: “there are more than 1000 Yazidi women who were transferred outside Sinjar, and there are complete villages under the control of ISIS and nobody knows the destiny of families in them.”
Other local officials of the city said that specifying numbers and documenting them will need longer time because there are more than 200 Yazidi displaced person whose families are scattered, and the numbers of missed persons cannot be calculated before weeks. They assert that there are hundreds of detained women in different locations such as some detention centers in Sinjar, Tala’afar airport, Mousil Woods, and a youth center nearby Ninawa Palace Hotel. Ali Ayzidi, a civil activist who monitors and follows up the number of detained women, estimated the number to be more than 2000 Yazidi women, some of them in Baduish Prison in Mousil city, and some others in Tala’afar city.
The cruelty with which the Islamic State dealt with Sinjar inhabitants is unprecedented in any other area which fell under their control. All Yazidis form children and men were sentenced to death, as well as shiia Muslims, even Sunni Muslims of the Kurds who worked with the Peshmerga.
The death orders did not only include the Yazidis who refused to convert to Islam, they included even those who announced their conversion to Islam, according to some survivors.
A man from Sinjar in his fifties, who refused to reveal his name, asserted that he and his family were obliged to declare their conversion into Islam in a Mosque in Sinjar few hours after the invasion of the city by armed men, but ISIS troops came two days later and took two of his sisters, they said they became sex-slaves, few hours later, they brought them back.
The man said with a shrugging voice that he “could not object lest all of them get killed, we did not know how to survive, even when we become Muslims, princes come and say that killing us is something halal (legal) and our Islam if fake because it came without convictions.”
If death and slavery were the destiny ofthe Yazidis who converted to Islam, so it is inevitable to kill the ones who refused to convert. At the noon of August 15, the armed forces of ISIS surrounded Village Cojo, 18 kms to the South of Sinjar, with about 1200 populations, they gathered the people in the school of the village, separated men from women, and shot to death 80 men. This was confirmed by most of the official accounts.
But one of the inhabitants of the village, a well-known figure in it, told the writer that more than 300 people were killed that day, and they are all men including the elderly, whereas the children and women were arrested and taken by vehicles to unknown places.
The man who lost 18 members from his family: his sons and grandsons, said that the ISIS people threatened in the first day of their control of the area to kill all the inhabitants of the village if they refuse to hand over their weapons. The same threat was given to al-Hatimiya, a nearby village, with a guarantee of safe departure from the village if it give up their arms. Later, the weapons were given, but the armed men came a week later and made the people choose either to be converted to Islam or to get killed.
The same number of victims was confirmed by Kareem Sulayman, the spokesperson of the Yazidi Spiritual Council, who also estimated the number of the victims as 2500.
But Sinjar governor said that 413 people were killed in Cojo, according to some villagers, including everyone who is more than 13 years old, and buried in mass graves in addition to captivating 700 women and children.
This report was conducted with the support of the Iraqi Investigative Press Network (NIRIJ).