Who are the Yazidis, who are so brutally treated by ISIS? They are considered a heretical sect by mainstream Muslims, with about 700,000 in existence in northern Iraq. Ethnically they are mostly Kurdish, but they follow an ancient religion derived from Zoroastrianism (an ancient Persian faith founded by a philosopher), Christianity and Islam.
The religion has taken elements from each, including baptism (Christianity) to circumcision (Islam) to reverence of fire as a manifestation from God (from Zoroastrianism).
Under Ottoman rule in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Yazidis were subject to 72 genocidal massacres. In 2007, hundreds of Yazidis were killed as car bombs ripped through their stronghold in northern Iraq. With numbers of dead as close to 800, according to the Iraqi Red Crescent, this was one of the single deadliest events to take place during the American-led invasion.
Today they are being slaughtered by the thousands and have been driven out of their homes to the top of Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, where they are literally surrounded by ISIS jihadis. Because the women are considered non-Muslim, ISIS considers it OK to gang rape and sell them into slavery.
From the Independent
By Heather Saul
Yazidi women released by Isis this week were gang-raped in public by fighters and tortured by their captors, according to distressing accounts of their ordeals.
Hundreds of women and children were abducted from the town of Sinjar, in northern Iraq, and held hostage by Isis for over eight months. Some were sold to fighters as sex slaves or given as ‘prizes’. Many were beaten and forced to convert to Islam.
More than 200 were released by fighters in Himera, near Kirkurk, earlier this week. They have told harrowing tales of the physical and sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of their captors. Ziyad Shammo Khalaf, who works with the Yazda organisation to support Yazidi victims, said children were separated from their mothers and "distributed among houses" in Mosul and Tal Afar.
"If you come and sit with the girls you will find different stories from girl to girl. A lot of them have been sold to Isis fighters, they have been raped in [...] public, and by more than two or three people at a time," he told the International Business Times. "They were tortured, beaten and subject to any type of violence."
Other Yazidi survivors have also given disturbing accounts of their treatment by Isis, with one women describing how militants were forcing hostages to give their blood for transfusions.
The atrocities endured by Yazidi sex slaves was exposed more fully in an 87-page report released by Amnesty International in November 2014, who found girls and women were repeatedly raped and sold as sex slaves.
The report found that even children were being sold to Isis fighters or given as “gifts”.
Isis considers Yazidis heretical and published an article in its propaganda magazine Dabiq attempting to justify the practice of selling them using theological rulings of early Islam. However, experts say the practice has caused friction among the ranks of the extremist group. Sajad Jiyad, Research Fellow and Associate Member at the Iraqi Institute for Economic Reform, told The Independent that many supporters had been in denial about the trafficking of kidnapped Yazidi women until the Dabiq article was published.