Khansaa Brigade The Al-Khansaa Brigade, also spelled Al-Khanssaa Brigade, is an all-women police or religious enforcement unit of the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), operating…
The Genocide & inhuman abuse of the Yazidi people
The plight of the Yazidi people of Northern Iraq and Syria has drifted in and out of the public consciousness over the past few years , as these followers of the ancient religion Yazidism – have been pursued and brutalised by the mad men of Islamic State and their deluded followers.
Their men folk have been killed and women systematically raped and force to act as ” Sex Slaves” to fighters of IS and they have been forced into exile from their ancestral lands in Northern Iraq . Over the past few weeks and months mass graves have been uncovered and the true horror of the persecution of the Yazidis people is yet to be told.
The Yazidi people (also Yezidi, Êzidî; i/jəˈziːdiːz/ yə-ZEE-dees) are an ethno-religious groupindigenous to the northern Mesopotamia (see also Ezidkhan) whose strictly endogamous. And ancient religion Yazidism (or Sharfadin) is not linked to Zoroastrianism but linked to ancient Mesopotamian religions; however Yazidis form a distinct and independent religious community and have their own culture.Yazidis only intermarry with Yazidis. Yazidis who marry with non-Yazidis are expelled from her family and may not even more call themselves Yazidis.. They live primarily in the Nineveh Province of Iraq. Additional communities in Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Iran, and Syria have been in decline since the 1990s as a result of significant migration to Europe, especially to Germany. In Armenia, the Yazidis are recognized as a distinct ethnic group and generally do not consider themselves to be Kurdish. The United Nations also recognized the Yazidis as a distinct ethnic group. And according to the Human Rights Watch in 2009, the Yazidis are currently undergoing a process of Kurdification
THE Yezidis RELIGION IN English
The Yazidis are monotheists, believing in God as creator of the world, which he has placed under the care of seven holy beings or angels, the chief of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. The Peacock Angel, as world-ruler, causes both good and bad to befall individuals, and this ambivalent character is reflected in myths of his own temporary fall from God’s favour, before his remorseful tears extinguished the fires of his hellish prison and he was reconciled with God.
This belief builds on Sufi mystical reflections on Iblis, who refused to prostrate to Adam despite God’s express command to do so. Because of this connection to the Sufi Iblis tradition, some followers of other monotheistic religions of the region equate the Peacock Angel with their own unredeemed evil spirit Satan, which has incited centuries of persecution of the Yazidis as “devil worshippers.” Persecution of Yazidis has continued in their home communities within the borders of modern Iraq, under fundamentalist Sunni Muslim revolutionaries.
The Plight of the Yazidis in picture
Yazidis flee to safety from Islamic State helped by Kurdish fighters.
See below for more details on persecution from Islamic State & persecution
The Yazidi people speak Kurmanji Kurdish and adhere to the religion Yazidism (see Yazdânism), a religion rooted in Iranian religions blended with elements of pre-Islamic Mesopotamian religious traditions.
Although they speak mostly Kurdish, their ethnicity is obscure.Commentators identify the Yazidis as predominantly Kurds but according to some sources, they tend to regard themselves as distinct from Kurds.Many Yazidis say that Kurds are originally Yazidi who shifted culturally after they adopted Islam.
The United Nations recognizes the Yazidis as a distinct ethnic group. A report from Human Rights Watch (HRW), in 2009, declares that to incorporate disputed territories in northern Iraq-particularly the Nineveh province- into the Kurdish region, KRG and Kurdish authorities have embarked on a two-pronged strategy of inducement and repression. The HRW report also criticizes heavy-handed tactics. According to report: “The goal of these tactics is to push Shabak and Yazidi communities to identify as ethnic Kurds. The Kurdish authorities are working hard to impose Kurdish identity on two of the most vulnerable minorities in Iraq, the Yazidis and the Shabaks“. Their principal holy site is in Lalish, northeast of Mosul. The Yazidis’ own name for themselves is Êzidî or Êzîdî or, in some areas, Dasinî (the latter, strictly speaking, is a tribal name). Some scholars have derived the name Yazidi from Old Iranian yazata (divine being), and some Yazidis themselves believe that their name is derived from the word Yezdan or Êzid “God”, though the current consensus among Western academics support the widespread idea that it is a derivation from Umayyad Caliph Yazid I (Yazid bin Muawiyah), who is revered as Sultan Ezi. The Yazidis’ cultural practices are observed in Kurdish, and all speak Kurdish language. Kurdish language is the language of almost all the orally transmitted religious traditions of the Yazidis.
The religion of the Yazidis, Yazidism, is a kind of Yazdânism and has many influences: Sufi influence and imagery can be seen in the religious vocabulary, especially in the terminology of the Yazidis’ esoteric literature, but much of the theology is non-Islamic. Their cosmogonies apparently have many points in common with those of ancient Persian religions. Early writers attempted to describe Yazidi origins, broadly speaking, in terms of Islam, or Persian, or sometimes even “pagan” religions; however, research published since the 1990s has shown such an approach to be simplistic.
The origin of Yazidism is now usually seen by scholars as a complex process of syncretism, whereby the belief system and practices of a local faith had a profound influence on the religiosity of adherents of the ‘Adawiyya Sufi order living in the Yezidi mountains, and caused it to deviate from Islamic norms relatively soon after the death of its founder, Shaykh ‘Adī ibn Musafir, who is said to be of Umayyad descent. He settled in the valley of Laliş (some 36 miles north-east of Mosul) in the early 12th century. Şêx Adî himself, a figure of undoubted orthodoxy, enjoyed widespread influence. He died in 1162, and his tomb at Laliş is a focal point of Yazidi pilgrimage.
According to the Yezidi calendar, April 2012 marked the beginning of their year 6,762 (thereby year 1 would have been in 4,750 BC in the Gregorian calendar).
During the 14th century, important Yezidi tribes whose sphere of influence stretched well into what is now Turkey (including, for a period, the rulers of the principality of Jazira) are cited in historical sources as Yazidi. According to Moḥammed Aš-Šahrastani,”The Yezidis are the followers of Yezîd bn Unaisa, who [said that he] kept friendship with the first Muhakkama before the Azariḳa” . “It is clear, then, that Aš-Šahrastani finds the religious origin of this interesting people in the person of Yezîd bn Unaisa. … We are to understand, therefore, that to the knowledge of the writer, bn Unaisa is the founder of the Yezidi sect, which took its name from him.” “Now, the first Muhakkamah is an appellative applied to the Muslim schismatics called Al-Ḫawarij. … According to this it might be inferred that the Yezidis were originally a Ḫarijite sub-sect.””Yezid moreover, is said to have been in sympathy with Al-Abaḍiyah, a sect founded by ‘Abd-Allah Ibn Ibaḍ.”
Genocide of Yazidis by ISIL
Genocide of Yazidis by ISIL refers to the genocide of the Yazidi people of Iraq, leading to their expulsion, flight and effectively exiling them from their ancestral lands in North Iraq, the abduction of Yazidi women and massacres of at least 5,000 Yazidi civilians,during what has been called a “forced conversion campaign” being carried out in Northern Iraq by the militant organization the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), starting in 2014.
ISIL’s persecution of the Yazidi gained international attention, and directly led to the American-led intervention in Iraq (2014–present) which started with United States airstrikes against ISIL. Additionally, the US, UK, and Australia made emergency airdrops to Yazidis who had fled to a mountain range (see Sinjar massacre, § Refugee crisis in the Sinjar Mountains), and provided weapons to the Kurdish Peshmerga defending them. ISIL’s actions against the Yazidi population resulted in approximately 500,000 refugees and several thousand killed and kidnapped.
The Yazidis are monotheists who believe in a benevolent peacock angel (Melek Taus) and whose ancient gnosticism faith. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and other extremists tend to view the peacock angel as the malevolent archangel Lucifer or Satan and label the Yazidis as ‘devil worshippers’.
Under Islamic Law as observed by ISIL, Yazidis are officially given the choice to convert to Sunni Islam or die. They are not eligible for the jizya tax taken from “People of the Book” by ISIL that would allow them to continue observing their religion
Previous targeting of Yazidis (by Sunnis)
- In 1640, 40,000 Ottoman soldiers attacked Yazidi communities around Mount Sinjar, killing 3,060 Yazidis during battle, then raiding and setting fire to 300 Yazidi villages and murdering 1,000–2,000 Yazidis who had taken refuge in caves around the town of Sinjar;
- in 1892, Sultan Abdulhamid II ordered a campaign of mass conscription or murder of Yazidis as part of his campaign to Islamize the Ottoman Empire, which also targeted Armenians and other Christians.
Post 2003 Iraq invasion era[edi
- In April 2007, a bus in Mosul was hijacked, Muslims and Christians were told to get off, the remaining 23 Yezidi passengers were driven to an eastern Mosul location and murdered.
- In August 2007, two Yazidi communities, in Qahtaniyah (just south of Sinjar) and Jazeera (Siba Sheikh Khidir), near Mosul, were hit by a total of four vehicle bombs carrying two tons of explosives, leaving 336–500 dead and 1,500 injured. Perpetrators are unknown; the U.S. saw “al-Qaeda as the prime suspect” because of the scale and the co-ordinated nature of the bombings.
Yazidis, and internet postings of ISIL have reported summary executions that day by ISIL militants, leading to 200,000 civilians fleeing Sinjar, of whom around 50,000 Yazidis escaping to the nearby Sinjar Mountains. They were trapped on Mount Sinjar, facing starvation and dehydration.
Massacres, sexual slavery, forced exile
On 3 August, ISIL killed the men from the al-Qahtaniya area, ten Yazidi families fleeing were attacked by ISIL; and ISIL shot 70 to 90 Yazidi men in Qiniyeh village.
On 4 August, ISIL fighters attacked Jabal Sinjar, killed 30 Yazidi men; 60 more Yazidi men were killed in the village of Hardan. On the same day, Yazidi community leaders stated that at least 200 Yazidis had been killed in Sinjar (see Sinjar massacre), and 60–70 near Ramadi Jabal. According to reports from surviving Yazidi, between 3 and 6 August, more than 50 Yazidi were killed near Dhola village, 100 in Khana Sor village, 250–300 in Hardan area, more than 200 on the road between Adnaniya and Jazeera, dozens near al-Shimal village, and on the road from Matu village to Jabal Sinjar.
On 10 August 2014, according to statements by the Iraqi government and others, ISIL militants buried alive an undefined number of Yazidi women and children in northern Iraq in an attack that killed 500 people, in what has been described as genocide.Those who escaped across the Tigris River into Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria on 10 August gave accounts of how they had seen individuals also attempting to flee who later died.
On 15 August, in the Yazidi village of Kojo, south of Sinjar, after the whole population had received the jihadist ultimatum to convert or be killed, over 80 men were killed. A witness recounted that the villagers were first converted under duress, but when the village elder refused to convert, all of the men were taken in trucks under the pretext of being led to Sinjar, and gunned down along the way. According to reports from survivors interviewed by OHCHR, on 15 August, the entire male population of the Yazidi village of Khocho, up to 400 men, were rounded up and shot by ISIL, and up to 1,000 women and children were abducted; on the same day, up to 200 Yazidi men were reportledy executed for refusing conversion in a Tal Afar prison.
Between 24 and 25 August, 14 elderly Yazidi men were executed by ISIL in the Sheikh Mand Shrine, and the Jidala village Yazidi shrine was blown up. On 1 September, the Yazidi villages of Kotan, Hareko and Kharag Shafrsky were set afire by ISIL, and on 9 September, Peshmerga fighters discovered a mass grave containing the bodies of 14 executed civilians, presumably Yazidis.
According to an OHRCR/UNAMI report on 26 September, by the end of August, 1,600–1,800 or more Yazidis who had been murdered, executed, or died from starvation. In early October, Matthew Barber, a scholar of Yazidi history at the University of Chicago, estimated between 3,000–5,000 Yazidi men had been killed by ISIS.
In October 2014, a UN report revealed that ISIL had massacred 5,000 Yazidi men in northern Iraq in August 2014.
In May 2015, the Yazidi Progress Party released a statement in which they said that 300 Yazidi captives were killed on 1 May by ISIL in the Tal Afar, Iraq.
Abduction of women; sexual slavery
Yazidi Teen Who Escaped from ISIS Captivity Recounts Her Harrowing Experiences
On 4 August, ISIL fighters attacked Jabal Sinjar and abducted a number of women in the Yazidi village of Hardan, wives and daughters were abducted; other Yazidi women were abducted in other villages in the area. On 6 August, ISIL kidnapped 400 Yazidi women in Sinjar to sell them as sex slaves. According to reports from surviving Yazidi, between 3 and 6 August, 500 Yazidi women and children were abducted from Ba’aj and more than 200 from Tal Banat. According to a statement by the Iraqi government on 10 August 2014, hundreds of women were taken as slaves in northern Iraq. On 15 August, in the Yazidi village of Kojo, south of Sinjar, over 100 women were abducted, though according to some reports from survivors, up to 1,000 women and children of the Yazidi village of Khocho were abducted. According to an OHRCR/UNAMI report on 26 September, by the end of August up to 2,500 Yazidis, mostly women and children, had been abducted. In early October, Matthew Barber, a scholar of Yazidi history at the University of Chicago, compiled a list of names of 4,800 Yazidi women and children who had been captured (estimating the total number of abducted people to be possibly up to 7,000).
ISIS sex slave survivor: They beat me, raped me, treated me like an animal
The abducted Yazidi women were sold into slave markets with ISIL “using rape as a weapon of war” according to CNN, with the group having gynaecologists ready to examine the captives. Yazidi women were physically observed, including examinations to see if they were “virgins” or if they were pregnant. Women who were found to be pregnant were taken by the ISIL gynaecologists and forced abortions were performed on them.
Haleh Esfandiari from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars highlighted the abuse of local women by ISIL militants after they have captured an area. “They usually take the older women to a makeshift slave market and try to sell them. The younger girls … are raped or married off to fighters”, she said, adding, “It’s based on temporary marriages, and once these fighters have had sex with these young girls, they just pass them on to other fighters.”
Speaking of Yazidi women captured by ISIS, Nazand Begikhani said in October, “These women have been treated like cattle… They have been subjected to physical and sexual violence, including systematic rape and sex slavery. They’ve been exposed in markets in Mosul and in Raqqa, Syria, carrying price tags.” Yazidi girls in Iraq allegedly raped by ISIL fighters have committed suicide by jumping to their death from Mount Sinjar, as described in a witness statement.
A United Nations report issued on 2 October 2014, based on 500 interviews with witnesses, said that ISIL took 450–500 women and girls to Iraq’s Nineveh region in August where “150 unmarried girls and women, predominantly from the Yazidi and Christian communities, were reportedly transported to Syria, either to be given to ISIL fighters as a reward or to be sold as sex slaves”. Also in October 2014, a UN report revealed that ISIL had detained 5–7,000 Yazidi women as slaves or forced brides in northern Iraq in August 2014.
On 4 November 2014, Dr. Widad Akrawi of Defend International said that “the international community should define what’s happening to the Yezidis as a crime against humanity, crime against cultural heritage of the region and ethnic cleansing,” adding that Yazidi females are being “subjected to as systematic gender-based violence and the use of slavery and rape as a weapon of war.” A month earlier, President of Defend International dedicated her 2014 International Pfeffer Peace Award to the Yazidis, Christians and all residents of Kobane because, she said, facts on the ground demonstrate that these peaceful people are not safe in their enclaves, partly because of their ethnic origin and/or religion and they are therefore in urgent need for immediate attention from the global community. She asked the international community to make sure that the victims are not forgotten; they should be rescued, protected, fully assisted and compensated fairly.In November 2014 The New York Times reported on the accounts given by five who escaped ISIL of their captivity and abuse. On 3 November 2014, the horrifying “price list” for Yazidi and Christian females issued by ISIL surfaced online, and Dr. Widad Akrawi and her team were the first to verify the authenticity of the document. On 4 November 2014, a translated version of the document was shared by Dr. Akrawi.
On 4 August 2015, the same document was confirmed as genuine by a UN official.
In its digital magazine Dabiq, ISIL explicitly claimed religious justification for enslaving Yazidi women.
According to The Wall Street Journal, ISIL appeals to apocalyptic beliefs and claims “justification by a Hadith that they interpret as portraying the revival of slavery as a precursor to the end of the world”. In late 2014, ISIL released a pamphlet on the treatment of female slaves. The New York Times said in August 2015 that “[t]he systematic rape of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution.
Flight into Sinjar Mountains and PKK’s support
The ISIL offensive in the Sinjar area of northern Iraq, 3–4 August, caused 30,000–50,000 Yazidis to flee into the Sinjar Mountains (Jabal Sinjar) fearing they would be killed by ISIL. They had been threatened with death if they refused conversion to Islam. A UN representative said that “a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar”.
On 3 and 4 August, 14 or more Yazidi children and some elderly or people with disabilities died of hunger, dehydratation, and heat on Sinjar Mountains. By 6 August, according to reports from survivors, 200 Yazidi children while fleeing to Jabal Sinjar had died from thirst, starvation, heat and dehydratation.
Fifty thousand Yazidis, besieged by ISIL on Mount Sinjar, were able to escape after Kurdish PKK and Peshmerga attacks broke ISIL siege on the mountains. Majority of them were rescued by Kurdish PKK and YPG fighters. Multinational rescue operation involved dropping of supplies on the mountains and evacuation of some refugees by helicopters. During the rescue operation, on 12 August, an overloaded Iraqi Air Force helicopter crashed on Mount Sinjar, killing Iraqi Air Force Major General Majid Ahmed Saadi (the pilot) and injuring 20 people.
On 8 August, PKK was providing humanitarian aid and camps to more than 3,000 Yazidi refugees.
By 20 October, 2,000 Yazidis, mainly volunteer fighters, who had remained behind to protect the villages, but also civilians (700 families who had not yet escaped), were reported as still in the Sinjar area, and were forced by ISIL to abandon the last villages in their control, Dhoula and Bork, and retreat to the Sinjar Mountains.
Forced conversion to Islam
In an article by The Washington Post, it is stated that there is an estimated 7,000 Yazidis who had been forced to convert to “the Islamic State group’s harsh interpretation of Islam”.
In several villages, local Sunnis were reported to have sided with ISIL, betraying Yazidis for slaughter once ISIL arrived, and even possibly colluding in advance with ISIL to lie to Yazidis, to lure them into staying put until the jihadis invaded; although there was also one report of Sunnis helping Yazidis to escape.
Classification as genocide
The persecution of the Yazidi people has been viewed as qualifying as genocide by groups such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in a March 2015 report. The organization cited the numerous atrocities such as forced religious conversion and sexual slavery as being parts of an overall malicious campaign.
On 14 March 2016, the United States House of Representatives voted unanimously 393-0 that violent actions performed against Yazidis, Christians, Shia and other groups by ISIL were acts of genocide. Days later on 17 March 2016, United States Secretary of State John Kerry declared that the violence initiated by ISIL against the Yazidis and others amounted to genocide.
Multiple individual human rights activists such as Nazand Begikhani and Dr. Widad Akrawi have also advocated for this view. The term itself first arose in 1944 as the creation of a Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin, who himself defined the term as reflecting “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.”
Releases of Yazidi captives
In January 2015, about 200 Yazidis were released by ISIL. Kurdish military officials believed they were released because they were a burden. On 8 April 2015, 216 Yazidis, with the majority being children and elderly, were released by ISIL after being held captive for about 8 months. Their release occurred following an offensive by US-led air assaults and pressure from Iraqi ground forces who were pushing northward and in the process of retaking Tikrit. According to General Hiwa Abdullah, a peshmerga commander in Kirkuk, those released were in poor health with signs of abuse and neglect visible.
In March 2016, Iraqi security forces managed to free a group of Yazidi women held hostages by ISIL in a special operation behind ISILs lines in Mosul, in a statement issued by the Iraqi defence ministry.
Three Kurdistan Workers’ Party guerrillas died during the operation.
Western military backlash
On 7 August 2014, U.S. President Obama ordered targeted airstrikes on IS militants and emergency air relief for the Yazidis. Airstrikes began on 8 August. (See American-led intervention in Iraq (2014–present)#Obama authorizes airstrikes.)
On 8 August 2014, the US asserted that the systematic destruction of the Yazidi people by the Islamic State was genocide.
President Barack Obama had authorized the attacks to protect Yazidis but also Americans and Iraqi minorities. President Obama gave an assurance that no troops would be deployed for combat. Along with the airstrikes of 9 August, the US airdropped 3,800 gallons of water and 16,128 MREs. Following these actions, the United Kingdom and France stated that they also would begin airdrops.
On 10 August 2014, at approximately 2:15 a.m. ET, the US carried out five additional airstrikes on armed vehicles and a mortar position, enabling 20,000–30,000 Yazidi Iraqis to flee into Syria and later be rescued by Kurdish forces. The Kurdish forces then provided shelter for the Yazidis in Dohuk.
On 13 August 2014, fewer than 20 United States Special Forces troops stationed in Irbil along with British Special Air Service troops visited the area near Mount Sinjar to gather intelligence and plan the evacuation of approximately 30,000 Yazidis still trapped on Mount Sinjar. One hundred and twenty-nine additional US military personnel were deployed to Irbil to assess and provide a report to President Obama. The United States Central Command also reported that a seventh airdrop was conducted and that to date, 114,000 meals and more than 35,000 gallons of water had been airdropped to the displaced Yazidis in the area.
In a statement on 14 August 2014, The Pentagon said that the 20 US personnel who had visited the previous day had concluded that a rescue operation was probably unnecessary since there was less danger from exposure or dehydration and the Yazidis were no longer believed to be at risk of attack from ISIL. Estimates also stated that 4,000 to 5,000 people remained on the mountain, with nearly half of which being Yazidi herders who lived there before the siege.
Kurdish officials and Yazidi refugees stated that thousands of young, elderly, and disabled individuals on the mountain were still vulnerable, with the governor of Kurdistan’s Dahuk province, Farhad Atruchi, saying that the assessment was “not correct” and that although people were suffering, “the international community is not moving”.
- United Nations – On 13 August 2014, the United Nations declared the Yazidi crisis a highest-level “Level 3 Emergency”, saying that the declaration “will facilitate mobilization of additional resources in goods, funds and assets to ensure a more effective response to the humanitarian needs of populations affected by forced displacements”. On 19 March 2015, a United Nations panel concluded that ISIL “may have committed” genocide against the Yazidis with an investigation head, Suki Nagra, stating that the attacks on the Yazidis “were not just spontaneous or happened out of the blue, they were clearly orchestrated”.
- Arab League – On 11 August 2014, the Arab League accused ISIL of committing crimes against humanity by persecuting the Yazidis.
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- Defend International – On 6 September 2014, Defend International launched a worldwide campaign entitled “Save The Yazidis: The World Has To Act Now” to raise awareness about the tragedy of the Yazidis in Sinjar; coordinate activities related to intensifying efforts aimed at rescuing Yazidi and Christian women and girls captured by ISIL; provide a platform for discussion and the exchange of information on matters and activities relevant to securing the fundamental rights of the Yazidis, no matter where they reside; and building a bridge between potential partners and communities whose work is relevant to the campaign, including individuals, groups, communities, and organizations active in the areas of women’s and girls’ rights, inter alia, as well as actors involved in ending modern-day slavery and violence against women and girls.
Thousands of Yazidis have taken refuge in neighboring Turkey, where they are being sheltered in refugee camps in the city of Silopi.The Turkish Disaster Relief Agency (AFAD) has begun preparations to set up camps for receiving 6,000 refugees from Iraq.The number of Yazidi refugees in Turkey has reached 14 thousand by August 30.
Turkey has also airdropped humanitarian aid to Yazidi refugees within Iraq. However, Kurdish authorities didn’t confirm Turkey’s humanitarian aid.
Tensions and background
The 2007 Yazidi communities bombings occurred at around 7:20 pm local time on August 14, 2007, when four co-ordinated suicide bomb attacks detonated in the Yazidi towns of Kahtaniya and Jazeera (Siba Sheikh Khidir), near Mosul. Iraqi Red Crescent‘s estimates say the bombs killed 796 and wounded 1,562 people, making this the Iraq War‘s most deadly car bomb attack during the period of major American combat operations. It was also the second deadliest act of terrorism in history, following only behind the September 11 attacks in the United States.
For several months leading up the attack, tensions had been building up in the area, particularly between Yazidis and Sunni Muslims (Muslims including Arabs and Kurds). Some Yazidis living in the area received threatening letters calling them “infidels”. Leaflets were also distributed denouncing Yazidis as “anti-Islamic” and warning them that an attack was imminent.
The attack might be connected to an incident wherein Du’a Khalil Aswad, a Yazidi teenage woman, was stoned to death. Aswad was believed to have wanted to convert in order to marry a Sunni.Two weeks later, after a video of the stoning appeared on the Internet, Sunni gunmen stopped minibuses filled with Yazidis; 23 Yazidi men were forced from a bus and shot dead.
The Sinjar area which has a mixed population of Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs was scheduled to vote in a plebiscite on accession to the Kurdish region in December 2007. This caused hostility among the neighbouring Arab communities. A force of 600 Kurdish Peshmerga was subsequently deployed in the area, and ditches were dug around Yazidi villages to prevent further attacks.
The blasts targeted a religious minority, the Yazidi. The co-ordinated bombings involved a fuel tanker and three cars. An Iraqi interior ministry spokesman said that two tons of explosives were used in the blasts, which crumbled buildings, trapping entire families beneath mud bricks and other wreckage as entire neighborhoods were flattened. Rescuers dug underneath the destroyed buildings by hand to search for remaining survivors.
“Hospitals here are running out of medicine. The pharmacies are empty. We need food, medicine and water otherwise there will be an even greater catastrophe,” said Abdul-Rahim al-Shimari, mayor of the Baaj district, which includes the devastated villages.
The attacks carry Al-Qaeda’s signature of multiple simultaneous attacks. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. “We’re looking at Al-Qaeda as the prime suspect,” said Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver, a United States military spokesman. The group is reported to have distributed leaflets denouncing Yazidis as “anti-Islamic”. Others, including Iraq’s President, Jalal Talabani, blamed the bombings on “Iraqi Sunni Muslim Arab insurgents” seeking to undercut Premier Maliki’s conclave to end political deadlock among the country’s leaders.
On September 3, 2007, the U.S. military reportedly killed the mastermind of the bombings, Abu Mohammed al-Afri.