Over the past centuries, the Yazidi community, one of Iraq’s oldest religious minorities, has repeatedly been subjected to brutal attacks leaving thousands of its members dead. One of their worst subjugations occurred four years ago with the rise of the extremist Islamic State group.
IS committed genocide and other crimes against the Yazidi minority in Iraq as their power in the country peaked in the summer of 2014.
Hundreds of Yazidi women were captured, taken as sex slaves and subjected to horrific abuse by the extremists. Some managed to flee, including newly laurelled Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad who told the world of the horrors she and her community experienced.
About 5,000 Yazidi men were killed by IS when the Sunni militant group took control of Iraq’s northwest four years ago.
About 3,000 Yazidis still remain missing, most thought to have been killed in the war that rolled back IS control in Syria and Iraq over the past three years.
An isolated religious minority, the Yazidis have been persecuted for centuries. Many Muslim sects consider them infidels; many Iraqis falsely see them as worshippers of Satan. They speak Kurdish and their traditions are amalgamated, borrowing from Christianity, Islam and the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism.
In August 2014, IS militants swept into Sinjar, the ancestral homeland of the Yazidis near the Syrian border, after capturing the northern city of Mosul and declaring an Islamic caliphate across large areas of Iraq and neighboring Syria.
Tens of thousands of Yazidis escaped to Mount Sinjar, where most were eventually rescued by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces.
In November 2015, Kurdish militias with close support of U.S.-led coalition aircraft, drove IS out of Sinjar.
Before IS rose to power, the Yazidis were the subjects of one of the deadliest single attacks after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. On Aug 14, 2007, four suicide truck bombs targeted Yazidi villages north of the country, killing some 400 people and wounding many more. The attack was carried by out by the Islamic State in Iraq, IS’s predecessor.
During the Ottoman empire, Yazidis were subjected to several massacres in the 18th and 19th century.