With the Islamic State (formerly ISIS or ISIL) sweeping across Northern Iraq, leaving a trail of destruction and murder in their path, they are now engaged in a pitched battle for the city of Sinjar. The North Western city of Sinjar is the home of the Yezidi religious minority group which has suffered under various states of oppression for hundreds of years. Often demonized and misunderstood, the Yezidi have been branded as devil worshippers by people like the highly suspect 19th Century mystic Madam Blavatsky. However, the Yezidi are no devil worshipers but rather practice an indigenous religion which may pre-date Islam but incorporates some elements of Islam, Zoroastrianism, and other belief systems, including the worship of a Peacock god.
The Yezidi faith has many unique practices but despite the interesting instrumentations of their religion, the Yezidi are good peaceful people who have always supported the United States. When I was a Special Forces soldier deployed to Tal Afar in 2009 we had several Yezidi interpreters who were outstanding men. While Sinjar was a safe place, Yezidi who traveled to Mosul faced summary execution. When ISIS captured the city and let all the criminals out of prison, any Yezidi found in the prison were immediately executed.
Early reports state that up to several thousand Yezidi may have been slaughtered over the last 72 hours in Sinjar as the Islamic State took over large portions of the city. Up to 100,000 thousand inhabitants of Sinjar were immediately turned into refugees as they fled the city and took refuge on Sinjar mountain. Encircled by Jihadists and trapped on the mountain with no supplies, the weakest of the group are the first to die: Yezidi elderly and children are dying of exposure, mostly from thirst. One of my former interpreters has his family trapped on the top of Sinjar mountain right now.
Yesterday I was able to speak on the phone to a friend currently fighting along side Kurdish elements inside Sinjar. He said that battle lines are drawn across Sinjar with the Islamic State on one side and Kurdish forces (mostly consisting of Kurdish and Turkish socialists) on the other side. The Kurds attack in the morning and the Islamic state retaliates at night with both sides essentially in a stalemate as they take and then lose terrain.
My friend has been fighting with the Kurds for a while now and although moral is high, the men have not been rotated from the front lines in over six months and are exhausted by combat fatigue. Their mortar section leader was killed last week so my friend has been appointed as the new section leader. Over the phone I had to do my best to explain how to properly employ the mortar systems at their disposal in a improvised and ad hoc manner. Their fight continues.
With up to 100,000 Yezidi starving to death on Sinjar mountain and the battle at a stalemate, the situation is grim. This is unacceptable. What is happening in Sinjar is a slaughter. A religious minority is being exterminated by an Army of darkness. That can’t happen. This is nothing short of genocide.
There are now scattered reports of US air strikes against ISIS targets near Mosul amid the Pentagon’s official denials. Whatever happens in the next few days will be critical. While few are more skeptical of getting involved in more conflicts around the world than me, this is a situation where America can put a win in the box for the good guys and do it relatively easily with airstrikes which would shake up the status quo on the ground, giving Yezidi refugees a chance to escape, and Kurdish forces the opportunity to change the tides of war. Please contact your representatives in the US government and let them know that a Yezidi genocide is unacceptable as is turning our backs on the oppressed.
The Kurds on the ground are also in need of experienced combat leaders. Former Marines, Rangers, Infantrymen, and especially Special Forces veterans would be of immense help on the ground as advisors. I’m ashamed that I’m not there myself but personal issues have me tied down.
If you think you can make a difference, now is the time to do something.