The Yazidis, victims of "the biggest case of enslavement this century", say the world has let them downby James Harkin / March 26, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in April 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
Like every other Yazidi living in the shadow of Mount Sinjar, Nada’s catastrophe began on 3rd August last year. In just a few hours, Islamic State (IS) militants took control of the whole Sinjar area of northern Iraq. In the space of a week, more than 500 Yazidis were said to have been killed, and 40,000 had fled up the mountain, with the help of Kurdish fighters. After a series of United States airstrikes, President Barack Obama made a speech on 14th August declaring the siege of Sinjar over. The following day, the inhabitants of Nada’s village of Kocho were given a final ultimatum by the men from IS.
“You have to change your religion,” the fighters told the people in the village. Even though they were terrified, the villagers refused. Some time later, the fighters came back and reassured the villagers that they would be treated like Christians; in IS’s medieval interpretation of the Koran, Christians are permitted to pay a tax and abide by a series of arcane restrictions in return for protection. “Don’t worry”, they said. “You can take your cars and come to a school near the village. You will be protected.”
It wasn’t true. As would shortly become clear in their online magazine Dabiq, IS had already declared the Yazidis to be devil-worshippers—adherents of a creed “so deviant from the truth” that they would have to be converted to Islam or taken as slaves. Nada and other villagers were transferred to a school outside the village and informed that anyone who converted to Islam could return to live in Kocho. Once again, no one said yes. “We believe in God too. You have your religion and we have ours.” The villagers were made to empty their belongings into three bags, including all their gold, and were split into groups of males and females. The men and boys were taken away. Nada doesn’t know where they went. The women were taken to an “institute” in a nearby village called Solakh. A few hours later they came back with the order that the women were to be divided into three groups: girls, women with children and older women or grandmothers. “They said the mothers should go to the second floor of the institute, with their children.”