“We broke the ISIL siege of Mt. Sinjar, we helped vulnerable people reach safety, and we helped save many innocent lives,” President Barack Obama declared last Thursday. In a news conference, the president noted that the mission to relieve the trapped Yazidi minority in Iraq, encircled by Islamic State fighters, was a success and that the American forces who planned and executed that operation would withdraw from northern Iraq.
Just minutes after Obama spoke, however, independent relief organizations and even the United Nations waned that the Yazidis’ ordeal was not yet over. Several thousand remained trapped on Mt. Sinjar and those who had managed to escape were far from safe.
Less than a week after the conclusion of that mission, Reuters reported that many Yazidis still face the threat of ISIS’s horrors. Reporters related stories of militants digging graves in which they would bury civilians alive, women and children executed en mass for refusing to undergo religious conversion, and a general sense of hopelessness among those who have been abandoned by their countrymen and the world.
“They put women and children under the ground. They were alive. I still hear their screams,” one 26-year-old Iraqi Yazidi told Reuters reporters. “They were trying to keep their heads up to keep breathing.”
“They tied the hands of one woman to the back of a car and her legs to another car and they split her into two,” another said. “Have you seen anything like this? This is all because she is not Muslim and did not want to be converted.”
Some Yazidi refugees said they would like to escape Iraq and travel to Turkey or Europe, but the Kurdish peshmerga would not allow them to leave the country.
Other reports indicate that the Islamic State has captured up to 3,000 Yazidi women and children, all of whom will be sold or are to be forced to serve as servants and wives to their captors.
“She said she is going to be sold as a slave this afternoon, for $10,” one Yazidi man said of his captured daughter last week. “The world needs to know that is where our women are, where they are being enslaved, young and old alike.”
The persecuted Yazidis may no longer be dominating Western headlines, but their condition does not seem to have appreciably improved since America intervened in Iraq on their behalf. Even while suffering casualties and setbacks on the battlefield, ISIS does not relent in its campaign of inhumanity.
Whether by self-imposed exile or execution, without further Western intervention, it seems likely that Iraq’s ancient Yazidi minority will soon disappear from that country.
Correction: An earlier version of this article published an unconfirmed image purportedly of women in bondage with ISIS forces. That image has been confirmed as not linked to ISIS or the Yazidi minority.