Today, on the second anniversary of the brutal attack in Iraq known as the Sinjar Massacre, my thoughts are with the Yazidi people who had been displaced by the barbarism of ISIS.
Two years ago, early in the morning, ISIS launched an attack on the town of Sinjar, the historic home of the Yazidi people in Iraq, and several neighbouring towns in the region. Within hours, the Yazidis who lived in the area had been captured, powerless and at the mercy of the Islamic State. They were all given the same ultimatum: Renounce their identity and convert, or be killed.
By the end of the month, over 5000 Yazidi men had been killed and placed into mass graves. Another 50,000 Yazidis, who had fled into the nearby Sinjar Mountains, had to face starvation and dehydration.
The women and children captured by ISIS would face similarly horrific atrocities. Many of them were raped and tortured by their captors, before being sold as sex slaves or forced into marriage with ISIS troops. Even children as young as nine years old were not safe from being used as the spoils of war, facing rape and sexual slavery.
I remember last year, Nadia Murad Basee Taha, a Yazidi woman who had been captured by ISIS during this attack, delivered an account of her own experiences before the United Nations Security Council. I would like to share two of the more horrifying excerpts:
“We, the women and children were brought by bus to another region. Along the way they humiliated us. They touched us and violated us. They took us to Mosul with more than 150 other Yazidi families. There were thousands of Yazidi families and children who were exchanged as gifts,”
“I tried to flee but one of the guards stopped me. That night he beat me. He asked me to take my clothes off. He put me in a room with the guards. Then they proceeded to commit their crime until I fainted.”
To this day, the plight of the Yazidi people continues. Through acts of violence, rape, the recruitment of children and the destruction of temples, ISIS continues in their barbaric attempt to erase the Yazidi people and their identity. Today, over 6500 women and children are still in ISIS captivity, and another 1200 young boys have been captured to be indoctrinated as child soldiers.
It saddens me to see that the Yazidi people continue to face this ongoing brutality at the hands of ISIS two years after the Sinjar massacre. Through the work of advocates like Nadia Murad Basee Taha, the world has slowly begun to acknowledge the genocide, but little action has been taken to put an end to their suffering.
According to Yazidi leaders, 40 percent of the area surrounding Sinjar is still under ISIS control, making it impossible for the Yazidis who fled or escaped from ISIS captivity to return to their homes. We cannot ignore the plight of the Yazidi people. We must act to end this genocide.