Kurdish forces protecting the northern Iraq town of Sinjar were defeated and pushed back by Sunni extremists over the weekend, forcing 200,000 people —primarily Yazidis, a mostly Kurdish-speaking religious minority — to flee to neighboring areas.
Among them are between 10,000 and 40,000 Yazidis now sheltering on nearby Mount Sinjar without access to food or water. Members of the Islamic State, who believe the long-persecuted Yazidis to be devil worshippers for their observance of Christian and Islam-influenced Zoroastrianism, have surrounded the base of the mountain. About 147,000 of those who fled have reached refugee camps in the Kurdistan state, according to the UN.
However, Yazidis on the mountain are unable to escape, and children and the elderly have begun dying of thirst. At least 19 deaths on Mount Sinjar were counted on Monday and Tuesday, while at least 40 children died in and around Sinjar between Sunday and Monday, according to UNICEF.
“There are children dying on the mountain, on the roads,” UNICEF's Iraq representative Marzio Babille told the Washington Post. “There is no water, there is no vegetation, they are completely cut off and surrounded by [the] Islamic State. It’s a disaster, a total disaster.”
Some Yazidis fled to nearby Dohuk province.
Though the Iraqi government tried to airdrop bottles of water to the trapped Yazidis on Monday night, few of those on the mountain were reportedly reached with the supplies.
The situation led Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi MP of the Kurdish Alliance, to tearfully plead for greater government assistance on Tuesday, telling parliament, “We are being slaughtered, our entire religion is being wiped off the face of the earth. I am begging you, in the name of humanity.”
On Tuesday, the Islamic State began posting photos from their clashes with Kurdish forces this past weekend, showing dead Kurdish peshmerga members and detained civilians.
Kurdish forces in the area, backed by the Iraqi Air Force, are reportedly planning a counterattack to regain their lost territory from the Islamic State.
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