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Thursday 3rd
posted by Morning Star in Features

STEVE SWEENEY remembers the slaughter of the Yazidis at the hands of the Isis death cult and the indifference of the Iraqi government forces

TODAY marks the third anniversary of the genocide of thousands of Yazidis who were slaughtered by Isis jihadists in Iraq.

The massacre of Mount Sinjar was officially recognised as a genocide by the UN last year and will be remembered today at events in towns and cities across the world, including London.

The Yazidis are a minority community mainly found in northern Iraq and have an intricate belief system which is influenced by a range of Middle Eastern religions including Zoroastrianism and Sufi Islam.

They were denounced as “infidels” by Isis who brand the Yezidis “devil worshippers” for following a peacock god, Tawusi Melek, and their concept of Satan not as a fallen angel but as God’s only representative on Earth.

Ethnically Kurdish, the Yazidis have faced centuries of oppression and persecution. However they have managed to keep the traditions and faith alive despite 74 attempts at their genocide by the Ottoman empire and Isis.

The build-up to the massacre at Sinjar came following the rapid rise of Isis who were seemingly sweeping all that lay before them.

As they were taking control of towns and cities across mainly Kurdish areas of Syria and Iraq, the Syrian Kurd People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Women’s Defence Units (YPJ) forces put out a unity call to the leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq, Masoud Barzani.

Barzani was not interested in calls for cross-border Kurdish unity to build a united front against Isis however.

Co-operation with more radical Kurdish forces would have undermined the KDP relationship with Turkey, the major player in the economy of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.

Barzani had his eyes on the golden prize of Kirkuk and its surrounding oil fields which he believed would lay the foundations for an independent Kurdish nation in Iraq.

For Barzani the defence of oil-rich Kirkuk, which had been abandoned to the Iraqi Kurd’s Peshmerga forces by the Iraqi army, came above everything else.

As a result, when Isis launched its June 2014 attack on the Kurdish city of Kobane in northern Syria, the YPG/ YPJ were left to fight alone.

Isis had also been attacking Yazidi villages in preparation for a major offensive and the Yazidis had appealed to the Iraqi government and Barzani for help.

Although the Yazidis were promised support, when the anticipated attack on Sinjar finally came on August 3, the Iraqi army had left the area and the KDPs Peshmerga said they had received no instructions to fight Isis and fled.

The Yazidis were isolated and surrounded by Isis, who forced thousands into the mountains where they were left without supplies including food and water. This was a period when Isis was perhaps at its strongest. They were fighting on a number of fronts in both Syria and Iraq and winning victory after victory.

They seemed an effective fighting machine as armies crumbled in their wake allowing the jihadists to declare a new caliphate.

US imperialism saw the situation at Mount Sinjar as an opportunity for another bombing campaign and intervention in Iraq.

The desperate pleas for help from the Yazidis were beamed around the world and the warmongers were rubbing their hands.

Former US president Barack Obama said he had authorised the targeted bombing to prevent a genocide being committed against the Yazidi people.

However their liberation came not from the US, but from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and YPG-YPJ fighters who broke through the Isis lines, creating a corridor which allowed thousands of Yazidis to escape.

Barzani has been accused of betraying Sinjar. A number of news sources have questioned how the oil-rich fields of Kirkuk were left alone by Isis who instead drove past the city and headed for Mosul in northern Iraq.

An article in German daily newspaper Der Spiegel reported that the jihadists seemed to have no problems striking pragmatic deals with Barzani’s government which meant “we take Mosul and we don't touch Kirkuk.”

And it was at the time when Kobane was under intense attack from Isis that Barzani chose to declare that preparations were underway for a vote on independence.

It seems the blood of the Yazidis was a price worth paying in Barzani’s quest for an independent Kurdish state in Iraq with him as leader.

Unimaginable atrocities were committed against the Yazidi people and still continue to be committed today.

According to a UN report at least 5,000 Yazidi men were brutally murdered. Isis went from village to village and slaughtered those who had hair under their armpits. Men were loaded onto trucks and taken into fields where they were shot dead.

Thousands of Yazidi women and girls were taken captive by the jihadists who sold them as sex slaves in Raqqa or gifted them as wives to Isis fighters and commanders.

In December 2014 Isis issued a guide to sex slavery for its fighters. In the 27 tips listed in the pamphlet the jihadists declare that women are “merely property,” meaning they can be bought, sold or given as a gift.

They rule that rape of a woman is permissible “immediately after taking possession of her” and that it is “permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse.”

Over 3,200 Yazidi women and girls remain in captivity and continue to be sexually enslaved, abused and subjected to multiple rape.

If they attempt to escape, they are forced to witness the murder of their children.

They continue to be bought and sold as sex slaves in markets in northern Iraq and Syria and other countries including Saudi Arabia.

The situation is so unbearable that many have committed suicide by cutting their own wrists or throats or hanging themselves.

Thousands of Yazidi men and boys are missing as highlighted by the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.

However many more would have died were it not for the Kurdish forces of the YPG-YPJ and the PKK, which mobilised to defend the Yazidis and opened up a humanitarian corridor that allowed them to get to safety.

The sexual enslavement, sale and rape of women has led to calls by Yazidi women’s groups for August 3 to be designated International Day of Action against Femicide and Genocide.

A vigil will be held at 10.30am today at Parliament Square in London supported by the Peace in Kurdistan campaign and other Kurdish women’s organisations.

A petition in support of the Yazidi women can be signed by going to

  • Steve Sweeney is a reporter for the Morning Star.