Thousands of Iraqi Yezidis Face Extermination

7 August 2014

Quilliam is concerned by recent events in North-West Iraq, where the so-called Islamic State (IS), the jihadist group formerly known as ISIS, has besieged many adherents of Iraq’s historic Yezidi community. Its recent advances in the region forced more than 200,000 to flee and left tens of thousands more stranded on Mount Sinjar, where they are surrounded by jihadist militants without food or water and little chance of escape.

Rightly fearful for their livelihoods, huge numbers of Yezidis have fled their homes in the city of Sinjar and its environs, as IS has continued its advances. IS refers to Yezidis as “devil worshippers” and has openly called for their mass extermination.

This does not come as a surprise, as IS has repeatedly shown that it is determined to force those whom it views as irreligious or apostate into obscurity, be this by expulsion or execution. In July, all of Mosul’s Christians were forced to leave the city or pay a tax to IS on the basis of their religion. Those who refused faced death.

Likewise, IS has carried out countless summary executions of Shi’ite Iraqis. A number of IS propaganda videos show hundreds of Shi’ites rounded up and blindfolded, before being shot.

We at Quilliam are concerned that this intolerable situation is receiving little attention from international governments. It is the responsibility of the international community to defend basic freedoms in the face of these most appalling acts. Quilliam’s Senior Researcher in Islamic Studies, Dr Usama Hasan, said today:

“The Islamic State’s reprehensible acts of cruelty and brutality in Iraq and Syria have no grounding in Islam. Indeed, from an Islamic perspective, the prohibition of any compulsion in all religious matters is a fundamental principle: true faith is based on free will and free choice.

It is imperative that governments across the world act on the Iraq crisis. Gone is the time when we can look away.”

In light of the above we would suggest the following:

1. The UN and its member states must all re-affirm their commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular Articles 2 and 18, which establish the right to free thought, conscience and religion. All must actively invest more energy in protecting global religious freedoms.

2. The international community must provide substantial and continued humanitarian assistance to the refugees and internally displaced people – of all ethnicities and religions – who have been forced from their homes by the crisis.

3. States that share borders with Iraq and Syria must ensure that they secure porous areas in order to limit the influx of foreign fighters into either country.

4. Regional governments must cooperate with each other to respond directly and robustly to the rise of IS. In particular, regional military power Turkey should actively provide military assistance to the Kurdish Regional Government against IS forces, while the Iraqi Armed Forces should be supported to take more decisive action against IS forces.