Part of the Islamic State's coat of arms (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The extremist militant group Islamic State, seemingly springing directly from the gates of hell, has continued its horrifying advancement across Iraq this weekend. Thousands of Iraq’s Yazidi ethnic minority remain trapped, dying of thirst on mountains near Sinjar—having fled their homes to escape execution at the hands of members of the Islamic State (also known as "ISIS," for "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria," and "ISIL," for "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant").
The brutally devastating news, as reported by Iraq’s minister for human rights Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, is that militants had slaughtered 500 Yazidi in their push to the Sinjar region. And not only was a mass grave discovered, but there was evidence that "Some of the victims, including women and children, were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar."
Al-Sudani added in his statements that some 300 Yazidi women had also been kidnapped as slaves. Iraq’s deputy human rights minister has qualified the that the 500 Yazidis killed figure includes those who’ve died of hunger or thirst . . . not, of course, that that makes any part of this horror show better.
There is a bright spot in that Kurdish forces were able to rescue around 20,000 of the trapped Yazidis yesterday. Of course, according to a photojournalist on the ground in Kurdistan (a semiautonomous region of Iraq that has so for remained essentially calm and safe, though its security has begun wavering) those Yazidi who’ve escaped the horror are “terrified and exhausted, and happy to be safe. But they're too traumatized to savor that."
And the U.S. has continued making airstrikes and drops of aid, as Obama had announced we would last week. A statement from CentCom said “a mix of [jet] fighters and remotely piloted vehicles" (read: drones) have made "multiple airstrikes . . . to defend Kurdish forces near Irbil." Both U.S. and Iraqi aircraft have dropped foreign aid for the thousands of Yazidi dying of starvation on the mountaintop, though their plight remains dire.
How Long Will We Be In Iraq?
Obama told reporters before jetting out of Washington on vacation this weekend that "I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks. This is going to take some time.” At least, he said, “We feel confident we can prevent ISIL from going up the mountain and slaughtering people who are there.”
He, along with European leaders who are chiming in, has called on Iraqi political leadership to form “an inclusive government,” saying, “this is going to be a long-term project.”
In stark contrast to said inclusive government, the Iraqi government has been embroiled in political turmoil, with Prime Minister Maliki threatening to take the country’s president to court. Malika himself is facing calls to step down.
It's a complete mess—and one that makes ISIL's continued advancement and extermination of the Yazidi even more chilling.