As the Islamic State closes in on the Yazidis, trapped in northern Iraq, bringing death and creating refugees, a member of the community told The Jerusalem Post that her compatriots’ situation is dire.
Khalida Khalil, an independent Yazidi writer, academic and consultant in the Kurdistan Parliament, who is living in Arbil, but born in Sheikhan, Iraq, said to the Post on Sunday that she called on “the international community to save us” and “defend us from massacres occurring in Sinjar now.”
Khalil said that there were around 200,000 stranded people trying to survive in the mountains – hanging between life and death – hoping that they can be saved from slaughter.
Khalil said that no precise statistics were available, but she claimed that thousands of Yazidis have gone missing and that 200 children starved to death or have been murdered by the Islamic State.
According to UNICEF, 25,000 children are under threat of death from hunger and thirst in the mountains.
“Thousands of men were killed in front of their families and many old men have died from thirst and illness,” she said, highlighting that the Islamic State kidnapped more than 1,000 women and girls.
“Yazidis and Kurds share a common nationality, but are separated by religion,” Khalil explained.
Asked about prospects for an independent Kurdistan, Khalil noted that it depended “on political developments, particularly in the bordering states, since we don’t have a port.”
Mordechai Zaken, an Israeli expert of minorities in the Middle East and a former Arab affairs adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office, told the Post that the idea of an independent Kurdish state failed to gain widespread support in the West, and particularly from the US, because of Turkish opposition and the wish to prevent the breakdown of the Iraqi state.
Zaken said, however, that this position had become untenable as even “the Turks have realized slowly but surely that they are better off cooperating with the Kurds than fighting them.”
The division of Iraq into three political units: Sunni, Shi’ite and Kurdish seemed to be inevitable, he said.
Regarding the Yazidi community, Zaken said that they have “suffered many massacres and humiliations by surrounding groups, mostly Turks and Kurds” having mistakenly been viewed as “devil worshipers.”
The little understood Yazidi religion has contributed to the fear, hatred and misunderstandings, he said.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has enabled Yazidis to represent themselves politically as a minority, including in the Kurdish parliament.
It is clear that the Yazidis are not a top priority for the KRG, however, though their leaders receive much respect, said Zaken.
“Many of the elite and intellectuals migrated to Europe, the US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand,” he said.