Ever since ISIS overran parts of Iraq and Syria with its brutal interpretation of Islamic jihad, the terrorism group has been committing genocide against both countries’ beleaguered Yazidi minority. A fresh study published in the journal PLOS Medicine on Tuesday details the horrific events of August 2014, a period in which the Yazidis’ plight gained international attention after ISIS systematically exterminated thousands of Yazidi men and sexually enslaved countless other women and children.
In November and December 2015, researchers gathered information approximately killings and kidnappings from 1,300 displaced households that took refuge in camps in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Although concrete figures are tough to pin down — meticulous record keeping is difficult in war zones, and the exact size of the community prior to the siege was unknown — the study paints a disturbing portrait of what befell the Yazidis, an ancient ethno-devout group considered “satan worshippers” by hardline Islamists, over the course of a few days nearly three years ago.
“Using these data, the authors estimate that 9,900 Yazidis were either killed or kidnapped, amounting to 2.5 percent of the entire Yazidi population of Sinjar,” a release accompanying the report said. “Of these, an estimated 3,100 were killed, with nearly half of them executed by gunshot, beheading or being burned alive, while the rest died from lack of water and food or injuries during the ISIS siege on Mount Sinjar.”
Further, the authors — including Valeria Cetorelli of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the London School of Economics and Political Science Middle East Center and colleagues — point out the disturbing reality that children bore the brunt of the brutality during ISIS’s attack.
“total Yazidis were targeted regardless of age and sex, but children were disproportionately affected,” the study stated. “They were as likely as adults to be executed but constituted 93 percent of those who died on Mount Sinjar. in addition, children only accounted for 18.8 percent of those who managed to escape captivity.”
The authors conducted the study in order to document to the extent of which the Yazidis own suffered under ISIS, and expend the accounts to “support a formal genocide investigation.” The study comes after prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney in September called on the International Criminal Court to prosecute ISIS over its genocide of the Yazidis. However, both Syria and Iraq are not members of the ICC, thereby making such action much more difficult.