As international media focus on the harrowing plight of Iraq’s Yazidi people as they attempt to escape genocide at the hands of the Islamic State terrorists, much has been made of the suffering of the thousands taking refuge on Mount Sinjar, without food or water. One octogenarian, threatened with death by the Islamic State, crawled for two days to reach the sanctuary at the foot of the mountain.
The woman, who gave her name to the Global Post only as Aissan, escaped being captured by the Islamic State for sale as a slave; she says she was told she was too old and no “good to anyone anymore” as the jihadists abducted her entire family, including a three-year-old and a five-year-old. The Islamic State did not leave her to rest, however; she was ordered to convert to Islam. Her grandson, Assad Haig, who was in the Kurdish city of Erbil while his family was taken away, received a call from his grandmother explaining the situation.
The next day, she said, the militants returned to her home and tried to force her to convert to Islam. When she refused, she said they gave her one night to change her mind: she would have to wear a burqa and recite words signifying conversion to Islam the next day or face death. She called Haig and told him she would rather die.
Aissan took the night as an opportunity to flee and began crawling on her hands and knees towards Mount Sinjar, where thousands were sheltered and close to death due to lack of food or water. Coming down from the mountain meant facing certain death in the hands of the Islamic State, but staying on the mountain would require extraordinary circumstances to survive. The journey took Aissan two days. She was found by Syrian Kurdish forces upon arrival and was able to contact Haig.
In the two days Aissan spent fleeing to Mount Sinjar, extraordinary circumstances did allow for the rescue of many on the mountain. The United States sent air reinforcements that allowed Kurdish Peshmerga forces to cut through the Islamic State’s jihadists to reach the Yazidis. Helicopters from national and international sources dropped humanitarian aid and lifted all they could to safety.
The story does not have a happy ending for Aissan or her grandson. The rest of her family, except for Haig’s father, remains missing, with little to no leads on where to find them. Reports suggest that the Islamic State jihadists are selling hundreds of Yazidis into the slave trade, while others remain in the custody of the terrorist group. The Islamic State has made clear that they intend to eliminate the Yazidi population of Iraq, as well as all who do not conform to their fundamentalist version of Sunni Islam.