It’s not clear exactly how many Yazidis remain on the Mount Sinjar, but thousands have been able to climb down to safety with the help of Syrian Kurdish fighters who battled the ISIS barbarians to carve out an escape route for them.
While the U.S. and Iraqi militaries struggle to aid the starving members of Iraq’s Yazidi minority with supply drops from the air, the Syrian Kurds took it on themselves to rescue them. The move underlined how they – like Iraqi Kurds – are using the region’s conflicts to establish their own rule.
For the past few days, fighters have been rescuing Yazidis from the mountain, transporting them into Syrian territory to give them first aid, food and water, and returning some to Iraq via a pontoon bridge.
The Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking minority who follow an ancient Mesopotamian faith, started to flee to the Sinjar mountain chain on Aug. 2, when militants from the extremist Islamic State group took over their nearby villages. The militants see them as heretics worthy of death.
“The (Kurdish fighters) opened a path for us. If they had not, we would still be stranded on the mountain,” said Ismail Rashu, 22, in the Newroz camp in the Syrian Kurdish town of Malikiya some 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the Iraqi border. Families had filled the battered, dusty tents here and new arrivals sat in the shade of rocks, sleeping on blue plastic sheets. Camp officials estimated that at least 2,000 families sought shelter there on Sunday evening.
Here’s CBN News coverage of the refuge camp in Syria.
This BBC report shows thousands of Yazidis seeking safety in northern Iraq, after crossing into Syria by foot and walking back into Kurdistan.
Officials for the Kurdish regional government say some 20,000 to 30,000 people managed to cross the Iraqi-Syrian border at the weekend.
Many said they hadn’t eaten for days on the mountain; their lips were cracked from dehydration and heat, their feet swollen and blackened from walking. Some elderly, disabled and young children were left behind. Others were still walking to where Syrian Kurds were rescuing them, they said.
“We are thankful, from our heads to the sky, to the last day on earth,” said Naji Hassan, a Yazidi at the Tigris river border crossing, where thousands of rescued Yazidis were heading back into Iraq on Sunday.
The U.N. estimated around 50,000 Yazidis fled to the mountain. But by Sunday, Kurdish officials said at least 45,000 had crossed through the safe passage, leaving thousands more behind and suggesting the number of stranded was higher.
The U.S. has since assisted the peshmerga fighters with airstrikes, and on Tuesday, a U.S. drone strike destroyed a militant mortar position threatening Kurdish forces defending refugees near the Syrian border. A day earlier, the U.S. said it would provide more weapons directly to Kurdish forces, but it was unclear what materiel was under consideration. Later Tuesday, the Iraqi military said a helicopter delivering aid to the displaced had crashed.
For now, with the peshmerga gone and state aid ineffective, the Yazidis who survived the mountaintop ordeal were counting on the Syrian Kurdish fighters. Covered in dust among crowds at the Tigris crossing, Hassan said without the fighters all would have been lost.
“Were it not for them, no Yazidi would be saved,” he said.
With just a few thousand Yazidis left on the mountain, and the Syrian Kurds doing a great job getting them out, the US Defense Dept is signalling that it is backing out of it’s promise to help with the rescue.
Fox News’ Martha MacCallum, filling in for Megyn Kelly had on Seth Jones from the Intl Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corp to talk about the US role in Iraq.
“To pretend that we don’t have a national security interest to this I think is a big mistake,” Jones said.
Linked by Doug Ross, thanks!