Yazidi survivors of the Islamic State’s genocide campaign against the Iraqi religious minority rejoiced this weekend at the news that “caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had met a swift and “cowardly” demise, according to President Donald Trump.
The Kurdish outlet Rudaw found relief and closure to be the predominant sentiments at a camp for displaced Yazidis in Duhok, Iraqi Kurdistan, in a story published Monday. The Yazidi (or Yezidi, Ezidi) minority, native to northern Iraq, follow an ancient religion that worships a monotheistic god and Melek Taus, the peacock angel sent to govern Earth. Islamic State terrorists equate Melek Taus to the Islamic Satan and consider Yazidis “devil worshippers.”
Estimates suggest that the Islamic State killed or abducted at least 10,000 of Iraq’s estimated population of 400,000 Yazidis. That estimate is likely to be significantly low given the prevalence of Yazidi mass graves, which returning Yazidis continue to find in their decimated hometowns and villages, currently totaling at least 70.
“We were delighted with the news. I wish I had been able, like in the past, to have a feast. It was like a feast for us,” an unnamed “elderly Yazidi” told Rudaw.
Another described himself as “very delighted.” “God exacted justice for us and everyone else,” he said.
“They killed so many people, why wouldn’t we be happy?” asked another at the Shariya camp near Duhok.
Prominent Yazidis have expressed similar relief at the news. Nadia Murad, a former Islamic State sex slave who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in helping her community’s survivors rebuild after ISIS, called al-Baghdadi’s death “welcoming news for the world.”
1/4 – The death of #alBaghdadi is welcoming news for the world, especially for those communities that were targeted by #ISIS. Baghdadi died as he lived – a coward using children as a shield. Let today be the beginning of the global fight to bring ISIS to justice.
— Nadia Murad (@NadiaMuradBasee) October 28, 2019
Murad used the opportunity to demand that an international court put the surviving members of the Islamic State on trial so that their victims can tell the world what happened to them, and the historical record can remember their crimes.
“Those captured alive need to be brought to justice in an open court for the world to see. Justice is the only acceptable course of action. We must unite and hold #ISIS terrorists accountable in the same way the world tried the Nazis in an open court at the Nuremberg Trials,” she said. “It is important not to forget those who suffered at the hands of Al-Baghdadi and his militants still need help. In particular, religious minorities in Iraq like #Yazidis and Christians. Yazidis are still displaced and thousands (mostly women and children) remain missing.”
“Today, I am very happy that [al-Baghdadi] is dead because what he did to us was very big. He is the reason this happened to us. Now, all I want is for those that were involved to be brought to justice,” Islamic State survivor Layla Taalo told Voice of America. Taalo spent two years as an ISIS sex slave and won the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for her advocacy for enslaved Yazidi women. “He should have been killed a long time ago.”
Also speaking to Voice of America, Hadi Babashekh, Head of the Media Office at the Yazidi Spiritual Council, lamented that al-Baghdadi could not stand trial for his crimes, but nonetheless said it was “good news for Yazidi women survivors.”
“Killing this man will bring stability to the region,” he added.
Rudaw noted that many hesitated to celebrate given that many Islamic State jihadis were still free, even if their boss was dead.
“Complacency is not a good option, We cannot allow an ISIS 2.0,” the Free Yezidi Foundation said in a statement expressing gratitude to those responsible for al-Baghdadi’s death. “[I]t is important to remember that even though Baghdadi is dead, it would be a dangerous and historic mistake to consider the ISIS organization, its ideology, or the tens of thousands of ISIS male and female members, supporters, detained fighters, and sleeper cells no longer a threat.”
President Donald Trump announced that al-Baghdadi “died like a coward” in a speech Sunday morning. The terrorist leader reportedly found himself cornered in a compound near the Turkish-Syrian border, ran into a dead-end tunnel with three of his children, and detonated a suicide bomb, killing all four and injuring an American canine officer, who President Trump has since confirmed is in good health.
“He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way,” Trump emphasized. “The world is now a much safer place.”
The successful operation comes at a delicate time for Yazidis who left their homeland in Iraq to avoid the Islamic State and are now caught before Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria, where many were forced to flee to. Kurdistan 24 reported on Tuesday that hundreds of Yazidi families have been forced to flee back into Iraqi Kurdistan.
“In the villages and surrounding territories on the Turkish-Syrian border, 200 Ezidi families have either been displaced or migrated to Europe,” Orivan Abdo, a Yazidi journalist, told the outlet. Yazidis in Syrian territory now occupied by Turkish forces and their allies in the Free Syrian Army (FSA), an umbrella militia featuring jihadist elements, are reportedly once again facing Islamic persecution.
Prior to the current Turkish invasion of Syria, human rights activists denounced the diffuse coalition of Syrian “rebel” Islamist militia fighters for persecuting Yazidis and Christians in Afrin, a city in Syrian Kurdistan currently no longer under Kurdish control.
Yazidis are considered ethnic Kurds and many speak the Kurdish language, though some controversy exists around categorizing them as “Kurds.”
The acute period of ISIS genocide against Yazidis began in 2014, when Islamic State terrorists overran northern Sinjar, Iraq. The terrorists forced thousands of Yazidis to choose between standing their ground in Sinjar, leading to nearly certain death, or fleeing up Mount Sinjar, where many died of thirst, starvation, and other maladies.
Helicopter operations to save Yazidi families by taking them off the mountain without passing through the now-conquered Sinjar city went in effect but could save few of the many families stranded on the mountain. Vian Dakhil, Iraq’s only Yazidi member of Parliament, personally rode a helicopter up the mountain to save families. The helicopter crashed due to the weight of so many people climbing on, significantly injuring Dakhil.
Dakhil survived and remains in Parliament. Much of the harrowing detail of what Yazidis endured has been documented through her. In 2014, Dakhil said that she visited villages where Islamic State terrorists were forced to flee by the overwhelming smell of dead bodies, having killed most of the Yazidi population.
Dakhil also shared a horrifying story in 2017 from a surviving Yazidi sex slave.
“One of the women whom we managed to retrieve from ISIS said that she was held in a cellar for three days without food or water,” Dakhil told Egyptian television at the time. “Afterwards, they brought her a plate of rice and meat. She ate the food because she was very hungry. When she was finished they said to her: ‘We cooked your one-year-old son that we took from you, and this is what you just ate.’”
Last year, Dakhil warned that many Yazidi children of Islamic State rape have been “brainwashed” into jihad and remain on the battlefield.
Yazidi communities rejected many of the children born of ISIS rape and, in some cases, rejected the mothers. The Iraqi government, Dakhil contested in April, has made that situation worse by registering the children of ISIS terrorists and Yazidi sex slaves as legal Muslims.
“Ever since the terrorist ISIS emerged, everybody has been saying that ISIS does not represent Islam and that its members are not Muslims. But yet the Iraqi state — the Iraqi government — registers the children [of Yazidi women who were raped in ISIS captivity] as Muslims,” she told Saudi Arabia’s al-Arabiya. “We must accept these cases … [Iraq] must not consider these children to be Muslims if they are brought up in Yazidi society.”
Dakhil noted that the Yazidi faith is “a non-missionary faith” and does not accept converts, so there is no legal way to “convert” the Yazidi children out of the legal Muslim status.
Doctors Without Borders has documented a pervasive, devastating mental health crisis in the Yazidi community.
“Everyone here has lost at least one family member or friend and all over Sinjar region there is overwhelming sense of hopelessness and loss,” Dr. Kate Goulding, working with Yazidi communities on behalf of the organization, told Ezidi 24.
“[T]he extent of loss in this community is incomprehensible and compounded by the trauma of extreme violence, humiliation, mass displacement, poverty and neglect,” she added. “As everyone will tell you here, the genocide perpetrated by IS wasn’t the first genocide the Yazidi have survived, it was the seventy-fourth.”