Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Cry for Help from the Yazidis

Photo credit: Funk Monk  
The civil war in Syria and the withdrawal of American forces in 2011 from Iraq saw the emergence of rebel and other armed opposition forces determined to topple down the regime of those countries. Of the rebel groups the Islamic State or (IS) is viewed as strongest threat not only to said countries but also to their neighbors. The IS defeat to the Iraqi security forces in Mosul have provided them sophisticated weapons and equipment that were left behind by the American forces to the Iraqis.

Inspired by its initial victories, the Islamic state pushed into the Kurdish territory in Northern Iraq and held strategic places there. Its biggest gain was the capture of the Mosul Dam. With that crucial infrastructure in its hand, the IS could control the water supply, electricity and could even flood the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad and its surrounding areas. The capture by IS of territories with oil fields will also provide them with money to buy armaments and finance their operations. It is the aim of the Islamic State to establish a caliphate in Iraq, Syria and the Levant. And its initial military victories on the ground are indication that IS is a serious threat to the region that should not be taken lightly by the Middle East and western leaders.

With their radical interpretation of Islam, the Islamic state fighters who are Sunni Muslims are at odds with other Muslim groups like the Shias who they consider as deviant Muslims. They are also hostile to minority groups such as the Christians and the Yazidis. The presence of the IS in Shia majority or controlled areas results to armed confrontations with local militias that are opposed to them.

Caught in the crossfire are the minorities Christians and the Yazidis. The Islamic State considers the Christians as People of the Book or people who along with the Jews were mentioned in the Bible . At the hands of the IS Christians can either convert to Islam or pay the jizya tax. If they are unwilling to choose either of those options they should leave the place or be killed. The Yazidis on the other hand are considered as “devil worshipers”, and as such they are given the choice to convert to Islam or be killed.

The Yazidis are part of the minority Kurdish community in Iraq. They are ethnically Kurds but they differ with the majority Kurds who are mostly Sunni Muslims. Unlike other Kurds, the Yazidis practice a monotheistic religion that is derived from Zoroastrianism, an ancient religion that predates the founding of Islam. Generally, the Kurds are distinct from other Iraqis because they are not ethnically Arabs.

When forces of the Islamic state pushed into Sinjar, tens of thousands of the Yazidis took to the road to avoid them. Some sought refuge to the mountain of Sinjar. However, in the mountain there were no foods or water, and without outside assistance they would starve to death. They could not descend the mountain either because they fear of being slaughtered by the Islamic State.

To protect American military personnel stationed at the Kurdish region from threat posed by the Islamic State and to avert potential genocide to a minority group, US President Barrack Obama authorized the airdrop of foods and water to the trapped Yazidis on the mountain. Islamic State targets were also being pounded by fighters, drones and bombers to help the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish peshmerga fighters thwart IS advance. Reports have it that the peshmerga and Iraqi forces have already retaken the crucial Mosul Dam, a claim that is denied by the IS.

The Yazidis are ethno-religious groups that are threatened of being driven away from their ancestral land and of extinction. There are reports of mass executions and brutalities such as beheading, burying people alive, abducting and kidnapping of women and children that are being committed by members of the IS.

The United States, France and the United Kingdom have expressed willingness to help the minorities and send arms to the Kurdish and Iraqi forces to contain the onslaught of the Islamic State. If the Islamic State could successfully establish a caliphate in Iraq, Syria and the Levant, they could bring that entire region under its influence and control. The world community should join hands to nip in the bud the growth of this ruthless group since it could threaten not only the peace and stability of Middle East but also the whole world.