A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, August 28, 2014

There are Still Yazidis Stranded on Jabal Sinjar

Despite claims that a combination of  Iraqi and Kurdish forces and US bombing had "broken the siege" of Mount Sinjar earlier this month, there are sill Yazidis stranded on the mountain. Two weeks ago, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby acknowledged this:
On the estimate of refugees on Mount Sinjar, it's difficult to provide an exact figure, but we think it's somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000. I'd also add that a number of them, perhaps up to 2,000 or so -- and, again, this is an estimate -- reside there and may not want to leave. It's home to many of them. So not all of them will necessarily be looking to leave the mountain. That's our best estimate right now, based on the assessment team's visit there.
More recent reports and published satellite photos confirm that there are still significant numbers on the mountain, This report from The Guardian notes:
Satellite images taken on 21 August by the firm ImageSat International and interviews with members of the Yazidi religious minority still on the mountain indicate a humanitarian emergency continuing to unfold. While thousands have fled down the mountain’s north face, making a dangerous trek into Iraqi Kurdistan through Syria, those on the southern side remain in crisis.
There has not been a US airdrop of food, water or medicine since 13 August, after a reconnaissance team of US special operations forces that had briefly been on the mountain reported that conditions were not as dire as Washington initially thought.
Survivors of the Islamic State (Isis) siege describe leaving behind their elderly and infirm relatives. The younger Yazidis who have stayed behind talk of fighting Isis until they either liberate Sinjar city below or they die.
I would add a reminder that those Yazidis who were "rescued" from the mountain are in refugee camps in the Kurdish regions of Iraq or Syria, or in Turkey; they may not be starving, but they are refugees in a region where massive displacement of minorities has taken place, and a burden on their hosts. And that does not address the numbers already killed by the Islamic State, or the reports of women being captured and sold.

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