This past March, the Obama Administration, via famed horse-faced statesman John Kerry, declared that ISIS was guilty of genocide in Iraq and Syria. You might've read something about it in between breathless coverage of Donald Trump's latest tweet.
Boy, it must suck to be one of those "other minorities" getting targeted for genocide but not even meriting a direct mention in an article about that genocide. Well, I went to Northern Iraq (no, really) to talk to the very people who narrowly fled being wiped out by ISIS. This is the fourth and final part of our series, Cracked Travels To The Front Lines Of the Battle Against ISIS, Christ Those People Are Assholes.
5They Were Targeted For Genocide Due To A Misunderstanding
We open on a peaceful desert village, filled with smiling children in colorful clothes, doing whatever it is kids without iPhones do. Then, a cloud of dust appears on the horizon. Armed maniacs waving black flags and driving Mad Max-ian war rigs roar toward the town.
Except real-life Lord Humungus is somehow even more of a shit.
This Hollywood-as-fuck scenario is a real thing that actually happened to thousands of Yazidi people in 2014. They're a small religious minority whom you probably haven't heard of before now, and of the 700,000 Yazidis in the entire world, roughly 40,000 have been captured by ISIS. When the Islamic State swept through, a few of the Yazidis stayed and fought a desperate, suicidal rearguard while the rest retreated up nearby Mount Sinjar, leaving nearly everything they owned behind. "We escaped by car," one man told me, but he found himself with no water, no food, and no shade.
They were escaping to the "safety" of a landscape that looks like goddamned Mars.
Many of the people who stayed behind were executed. One survivor who didn't flee to the mountains told me, "They separated women from men. They told the men, 'You have to say the Islamic state will last forever' ... Then they took women and girls to ... the main checkpoint between Sinjar and Mosul ... I don't know where the men were taken." Mostly to unmarked mass graves; more than 5,000 Yazidi men and boys were executed by ISIS, while 7,000 women (read: girls, mostly) were taken into sexual slavery.
So ... why? ISIS isn't exactly nice to any non-Muslims, but genocide is not their official policy toward Christians, for instance (though they have managed to kill more than a few). They believe that as "people of the book," Christians are explicitly protected by Quranic law, as long as they pay a special tax. The Yazidis, however, are a different story. As one middle-aged Yazidi father told me, "We pray to the peacock angel. That's why they keep coming after us." Well, that's not the whole story. Despite worshiping the obscure and fairly flamboyant deity Melek Taus ...
Seen here doing what every deity should strive for: not starting a holy war.
... misunderstandings over their faith have led centuries of angry Muslim kings to brand them polytheists, and ISIS to declare them devil worshippers. You can even find occult websites celebrating them as such.
Though maybe Angelfire pages which can't even be bothered to spell the name right may not be the most reliable source.
This misunderstanding has become entrenched in dumb internet circles ...
You sort of lose the right to mock the lettuce thing when you're spreading ghost stories with the same breath.
... and respectable news outlets alike. ISIS, which honestly doesn't need much of an excuse to unleash gruesome crimes against humanity, decided the Yazidis needed to be wiped out.
Magenta Vaughn/Cracked (Click for larger pic)
Above: clearly agents of the devil.
One thing my conversations with Yazidi refugees had in common was a distinct lack of surprise that this had happened to them. As one man told me, "Whoever [comes] and wants to attack someone, they come and attack Yazidis because our religion is different ... this is the 74th time this has happened to the Yazidi people."
4When ISIS Came, Their Defenders Abandoned Them
Hey, if the Yazidis get targeted for genocide more regularly than the U.S. holds elections, why didn't they have some sort of force defending them? Well, right up until the day ISIS attacked, they were defended by the best group of badasses available in the region: the Kurdish Peshmerga.
Magenta Vaughn/Cracked (Click for larger pic)
Why green camo in a desert? Because the point isn't to hide his whereabouts; it's to draw attention to his ironclad testicles.
For the last two years, the Peshmerga have been the only force in Iraq to consistently repel ISIS on the ground. They have a formidable reputation in the region, and the Yazidis I spoke with trusted that reputation. It's why they didn't run when ISIS began its advance. "We didn't know anything about ISIS, but we heard they attacked Mosul. We decided to stay in our village because there were Peshmerga forces there. But [when the fighting started], even the Peshmerga retreated." As another refugee put it, "There were 10,000 Peshmerga" on August 2, but on August 3, "nobody came. They left."
One Yazidi man I spoke with was convinced that an order for retreat had come from the Kurdish Regional Government, and then added, "Also, be careful with this -- they will kill me, the government." I encountered a few conspiracy theories speculating that the Kurdish government had done this to let ISIS "clear out" Yazidi villages in order to fill them with more Kurds later. Whatever the reason behind it, the Kurdish Regional Government has admitted that the retreat was an act of "negligence" and vowed to look into the matter. Two years later, they're still looking into it.
In fairness, the Kurdish authorities have had sort of a full plate lately.
So the Yazidis fled, and those who could held off ISIS to cover the evacuation. I spoke with one volunteer who fought for 12 straight hours as part of the last-ditch operation to keep ISIS out of Sinjar City. From August 3 until the American airstrikes began on August 8, a small band of armed Yazidis held off ISIS's pursuit without outside support. "We fight, just Yazidi."