Conditions of Yazidi refugees ‘heartbreaking,’ says ICRC

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By Nidhal al-Laithi

Azzaman, August 20, 2014

More than 90,000 Yazidi refugees who fled Mount Sinjar to the Kurdish Province of Dahouk live in horrific conditions and many of them have taken the shade trees, bridges and subways as temporary homes, according to Saleh Dabbakeh, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq.

He said the Yazidis had flocked to the small town of Khanek in the neighborhood of the city of Dahouk, the provincial capital.

“It is a human tragedy,” Dabbakeh said.

Khanek’s population of about 30,000 has surged to nearly 120,000 and Dabbakeh said most of the newcomers had arrived with little more than the clothes they were wearing.

The Yazidis escaped the town of Sinjar and scores of adjacent villages following an onslaught by Jihadists from the Islamic State or IS.

IS, formerly known as ISIS, pursues a very strict interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence under which it sees Yazidis, who still follow an ancient faith with origins in Zoroastrism, as heretics who either have to convert to Islam or be killed.

The latest violence that swept northern and western parts of Iraq is reported to have displaced up to 1.2 million Iraqis but minorities like Yazidis have borne the brunt.

There are reports of hundreds of them killed and many Yazidi women taken prisoner. The women are under pressure to convert to Islam in order for the militants to take them as wives.

“Conditions are tragic for those who have not managed to find a shelter,” Dabbakeh said.

He said many of the refugees who made it to Dahouk were now struggling “to get food and water for their families and many have no access to medical care.”

The Yazidis had to travel on foot for long distances as they had to cross Mount Sinjar and then pass onto Syria before heading to Iraq and settling in the Province of Dahouk.

“People sleep under bridges, under trees, in buildings not yet completed. Their situation is heartbreaking,” he said.

Dabbakeh said international aid organizations like the Red Cross were facing a monumental task.

“We are speaking of more than one million people who have been displaced from (the provinces) of Nineveh and Anbar,” Dabbakeh added. “Whatever humanitarian organizations working in the area offer, it will not be enough.”