UN panel says Yazidi genocide 'ongoing,' appeals for help

AP News
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Posted: Aug 03, 2016 1:10 PM
UN panel says Yazidi genocide 'ongoing,' appeals for help

IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — The Islamic State group is still committing genocide and other crimes against the Yazidi minority in Iraq, a United Nations commission investigating human rights abuses in Syria said on Wednesday.

The commission's statement — released on the second anniversary of the initial IS attack on the Sinjar area in Iraq — urged action to prevent further death and suffering.

About 5,000 Yazidi men were killed by IS when the Sunni militant group took control of Iraq's northwest two years ago. Thousands more, mostly women and children, were taken into captivity, according to the U.N.

The commission of inquiry said IS crimes "against the Yazidis, including the crime of genocide, are ongoing." It called for a refocus on the "rescue, protection of, and care for the Yazidi community."

Iraq's Yazidi community - a small and isolated religious minority that combines elements of Islam, Zoroastrianism and Christianity - has been repeatedly persecuted by successive governments and invading armies.

"Our community is still suffering after more than two years," said Mirza Danai, founder of the German-Iraqi aid organization Luftbrucke Irak. "We have been neglected and ignored by all the powers in the region."

In Germany, believed to be home to around 100,000 Yazidis, one of the group's largest diaspora communities, hundreds marched in cities around the country to mark the anniversary. In the capital, several hundred marched carrying signs with slogans like "Stop The Yazidi Genocide."

Seventeen-year-old Amira Elias said her mother had been taken by IS two years ago, and nobody knows what happened to her or others captured by the group.

"We want to help them, and I hope with the help of Germany we can bring them back," she said.

The IS attack on Sinjar in August of 2014 in part prompted the U.S.-led coalition to begin launching airstrikes against IS in Iraq and initiate a broader fight against the militant group in Iraq and Syria.

IS has since lost a third of the territory the group once held in Iraq and Syria, according to the coalition.

In November 2015, Kurdish militias with close support of U.S.-led coalition aircraft, pushed IS out of Sinjar.

But more than six months later it still lies in ruins, largely empty of its Yazidi and Muslim inhabitants.

"There are no services for us to come back to," said Jalal Qassim, a shopkeeper from Sinjar who is living on the mountain above the town with thousands of other displaced residents.

"As you can see it's a destroyed area," he continued, "where can I come back to? If I come back, they (IS) are still in all these villages around here."

In March, the Obama administration formally concluded IS group is committing genocide against Yazidis as well as other minority groups, including Christians and Shiite Muslims.

The U.N. panel's statement on Wednesday said that more than 3,200 women and children from the minority continue to be held by IS, and are "subjected to almost-unimaginable violence," including the sexual enslavement of girls while young Yazidi boys are forced to fight for IS.

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Associated Press Writer Rashid Dosky in Sinjar, Iraq and David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.