Tens of thousands of members of Iraqi religious minority groups driven from their homes for fear of the jihadist group Islamic State are dying of thirst and heat on a desert mountainside in the north of the country, according to the United Nations and human rights groups.
Some 40 children have already died from the heat and dehydration, the UN children’s organisation Unicef says, while upwards of 40,000 more are sheltering in the bare mountains, without food or water or access to supplies. It says 25,000 children may be stranded.
Hundreds of adults, particularly men but also women and children, are already feared to have been killed or abducted by the group, which now surrounds their hiding place.
Most of the refugees, who fled their home city of Sinjar when it was seized by Islamic State at the weekend, are members of the Yazidi community. The Yazidis are an offshoot from Zoroastrianism and the “Peacock Angel” at the centre of their beliefs is associated by some Sunni Muslims with Satan.
Oh dear god. That’s not a reason to murder people. Just stop.
The Yazidis mostly fled south when Sinjar was attacked, but the mountains where they are hiding out are entirely cut off by the Islamic State. Some photos have emerged of panicked lines of cars, and groups of people huddled at the entrance of caves.
The army has managed to drop some supplies by helicopter, but not enough.
“The civilians trapped in the mountain area are not only at risk of being killed or abducted; they are also suffering from a lack of water, food and medical care,” Ms Rovera said. “We urge the international community to provide humanitarian assistance.”
Amnesty claimed the Kurdish government had begun blocking access to refugees. “The plight of displaced people caught up in the fighting in Iraq is increasingly desperate and all parties to the conflict must do more to ensure their safety,” [Amnesty International researcher Donatella] Rovera said.