By Lara Kajs
On September 2, 2014 - Amnesty International released the 26 page briefing Ethnic cleansing on historic scale: the Islamic States’s systematic targeting of minorities in northern Iraq, outlining new evidence that Islamic State militants are carrying out “a wave of ‘ethnic cleansing” against minorities in northern Iraq.
The report comes as the United Nations Human Rights Council announced that it was deploying an emergency mission team to Iraq to investigate “acts of inhumanity on an unimaginable scale” carried out by the Islamic State (IS). Deputy Human Rights Commissioner Flavia Pansieri warned that IS (also known as ISIS and ISIL) was targeting Assyrian Christians, Turkmen Shi’a, Shabak Shi’a, members of the Yazidi faith, Kakai and Sabean Mandaeans communities “through particularly brutal persecution.”
Thousands of people have been killed... more than a million have been forced to flee their homes
The briefing shows evidence that several mass killings had taken place in August in the northern region of Sinjar. Two of the bloodiest incidents are reported to have taken place on August 3rd in the village of Qiniyeh and on August 15th in the village of Kocho, a situation that eventually persuaded the U.S. to begin a humanitarian aid campaign and a military campaign against IS targets.
Accounts indicate that the number of those killed “ran into the hundreds.” The victims included groups of men and boys, including children as young as 12 years old, that were seized by Islamic State militants and taken away and shot. “There was no order, they (the IS fighters) just filled up vehicles indiscriminately,” said one survivor of the Kocho massacre.
Hundreds, even thousands, of people from the Yazidi minority are still held captive by IS, according to Amnesty. IS militants are said to have used the threat of rape, sexual assault, or pressured them to convert to Islam. It is believed that entire families have been abducted by the Islamic State. One man gave a list with the names of forty-five missing relatives (women and children). He said, “We get news from some of them but others are missing and we don’t know if they are alive or dead or what has happened to them.”
Islamic State is Different
Unlike almost any armed faction in history, Islamic State militants go out of their way to advertise and promote their most atrocious acts on the internet. The horrific offenses of the Islamic State include the mass murder of hundreds of Shia soldiers captured in Tikrit, as well as the murder of thousands of Syrian troops taken prisoner at Tabqa airbase. There have been several filmed decapitations – including U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and more recently British humanitarian aid worker David Haines and many, many other chilling incidents.
“The Islamic State is carrying out despicable crimes and has transformed rural areas of Sinjar into blood-soaked killing fields in its brutal campaign to obliterate all trace of non-Arabs and non-Sunni Muslims” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor currently in northern Iraq – and author of the report.
“The massacres and abductions being carried out by the Islamic State provide harrowing new evidence that a wave of ethnic cleansing against minorities is sweeping across northern Iraq.”
Iraqi authorities must protect the country’s minorities from persecution
“Instead of aggravating the fighting by either turning a blind eye to sectarian militias or arming Shi’a militias against the IS as the authorities have done so far, Iraq’s government should focus on protecting all civilians regardless of their ethnicity or religion. The people of northern Iraq deserve to live free from persecution without fearing for their lives at every turn. Those ordering, carrying out, or assisting in these war crimes much be apprehended and brought to justice.”
Image: Families from the minority Yazidi sect have fled from Islamic State extremists as militants swept across northern Iraq (Reuters)