Article from the American news outlet Global Post
Extract: LALISH, Iraq — Sunday afternoon, they began to arrive.
Just hours after Al Qaeda-inspired extremists, known as the Islamic State, invaded their hometown Sinjar in northern Iraq, a steady flow of newly displaced families poured into the holy city of Lalish.
Sinjar is a predominantly Yazidi town which had been under Kurdish control since the Iraqi army fled in June. The semi-autonomous Kurdish territory in Iraq now shares a border with the self-declared caliphate under Islamic State control.
Yazidis, who have been persecuted for centuries, adhere to a pre-Islamic faith linked to Zoroastrianism. Their religion is shrouded in mystery, but most Muslims consider them “devil worshippers.”
On Sunday, one man sat in the courtyard of a temple in Lalish, his face expressing anguish. He was unable to speak. The man next to him explained:
“They captured his whole family,” he said. “They made his wife and daughters cover their hair and faces. Then they made them renounce their religion and swear allegiance to Mohammed. After that, they killed them all.”
The man had been away from his home at the time of the attack. When he tried to return, he was informed of the executions by his companion who dragged him from the scene as thousands fled to the homes of relatives or to the temple, which is now sheltering thousands.
The United Nations says 200,000 civilians, most of them Yazidis, have fled Sinjar and warned of a burgeoning "humanitarian tragedy." While the majority of Sinjar’s population is Yazidi, there are also some Arabs and Assyrian families.
The Islamic State (IS) began shelling Sinjar and several surrounding villages in the early hours of Sunday. By midday they had entered the city. Many of the men from Sinjar stayed to fight, while locals say the Kurdish peshmerga forces, who had been protecting the city, fled.
An estimated 600,000 Yazidis remain in
Sabrina’s Story: At 107 years of age Sabrina Khalaf is one of Syria’s oldest refugees and also comes from one of the regions rarest and oldest ethno-religious minorities, the Kurdish speaking Yazidi people. Sabria’s extended family, two remaining daughters and many offspring, have lived in Germany for years. Her son had remained behind in Syria to care for her but as the conflict raged, Sabria had to leave home. She took to the road, starting an uncertain journey, hoping to reach her daughters in Germany. Turkey was her first stop and after months of living in migrant ghettos in Istanbul, Sabria’s son made arrangements with a smuggler for their delivery to Italy, across the Mediterranean Sea. They travelled with some 90 immigrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Africa. The smuggler divided them and kept the group in three locked rooms at the bottom of the boat. Sabria and her son were in the room where fuel tanks were kept. They travelled for three days in rough seas. Water entered the room. Fuel splashed everywhere. “I was covered by fuel. I lost consciousness,” Sabria, 107, recalled. The boat never made it to Italy. It got stuck in a storm near Athens. An Afghan refugee, who was in the same room with Sabria, broke the door and escaped, forcing the captain to call for help. Two Greek Coast Guard boats arrived and rescued the stranded refugees. Seven months after starting out and after another long wait, sharing a squalid flat in Athens, with other refugees, Sabrina and her son finally got the clearance to be reunited with their family in Germany and arrived there on the 17th of March 2014.
Iraq. Lalish, which houses the tomb of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir, the main figure of the Yazidi faith, is normally a place of pilgrimage and worship. Today, it became a camp for internally displaced people. Full article here.
"As the conflict continues in Iraq, the UN has recently warned of its impact on religious minorities. The BBC's Reda El Mawy has been to meet some of them. He started by visiting Lalish, at the heart of the ancient Yazidi faith that combines Nature Worship, Christianity and Islam amongst other beliefs. He then travelled to Bashiqah home to many Iraqi Christians."