40,000 Yazidi Iraqis Stranded On Mountain Face Death By ISIS If They Move Down, Hunger If They Stay Put

Rahul Srinivas

40,000 members of one of Iraq's oldest minorities group, the Yazidi sect is perhaps facing its biggest challenge ever. Thousands of members of the sect are holed up on mountain tops across in the northwestern region of the country and face almost certain slaughter at the hands of invading ISIS forces if they dare to venture down, according to a report by The Guardian.

To make matters worse, the trapped Yazidi people now face death by dehydration and hunger if they choose to remain there. Fast diminishing food stock and scarcity of water means they find themselves in the midst of the worst predicament one could think of. It is almost certain death whatever path they choose – unless, of course, they receive some form of help.

The U.N. report adds that current United Nations estimates put the total number of Yazidis trapped on mountain tops to be in the vicinity of 40,000 individuals. Driven out by advancing ISIS forces, over 210,000 members of the Yazidi sect have fled the city of Sinjar – a city of 300,000 people. Over 25,000 people who remain in the city now under the control of the ISIS have been told to convert to Islam or face death. This is similar to how minority Christians in Iraq were told to convert to Islam or face death.

The fleeing Yazidi refugees have reportedly taken refuge on nine mountain tops in Sinjar. The area is historically known to be the final resting place of Noah's Ark as per local legends. According to a man trapped on top of one of the mountains, ten people are sharing a single loaf of bed. Water is short on supply and they have to walk 1.2 miles to replenish their water supply. He adds that while there have been air strikes against the invading ISIS forces, they have had no effect whatsoever.

Yazidi people trapped in Iraq by ISIS forces

An Economist report however said that the U.S. and Iraqi forces are now planning to airdrop food and water in the regions where the Yazidis remain trapped. France 24 has reported that Kurdish forces assembled from Iraq, Turkey and Syria were planning to attack current ISIS held positions in order to reclaim the lost area. If they succeed in their mission, the Yazidi's could heave a sigh of relief.

However, with over 500 Yazidi people, including 40 children being slaughtered by ISIS forces in the past week alone, the Yazidi think they are still in mortal danger. What is even worse is the fact that several Sunni people from the region, who used to live alongside the Yazidi, now openly support ISIS and have offered full support to ISIS forces against the Yazidi clan.

"They were our neighbors and now they are our killers," said a Yazidi farmer Kuldoon Atyas, who has chosen to stay back in Sinjar despite the invasion by ISIS.

Members of the Yazidi community has been long persecuted by the Sunni Jihadists who believe them to be devil worshippers. The Yazidis follow a religion that takes in elements from Zoroastrianism and Sufi Islam. They have been living in the region since the time of ancient Mesopotamia.

According to the Yazidi belief system, the world is safeguarded by God and seven angels, of which one angel named Malak Tawous was forced out of paradise for refusing to bow down to Adam. This was considered heroic and a sign of goodness by the Yazidi people. Many Muslims however do not subscribe to that view and call Malak Tawous to be a fallen angel and consider people who worship him to be devil worshippers.

With even moderate Muslims having a difficult time accepting the beliefs of the Yazidi people, there is little doubt about the fact that they would be harmed by extremely fundamentalist ISIS forces who are on a mission to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the region.

[Image Via Time and Institut Kurde]