Amnesty International condemns ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Iraq

A report by the watchdog detailed eye-witness accounts of those who survived what the rights group described as a 'massacre'

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International rights groups Amnesty International released on Tuesday evidence of the systematic ethnic-cleansing that has been carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in northern Iraq, namely, against the Yazidi community.

The report, titled "Ethnic cleansing on historic scale: the Islamic State’s systematic targeting of minorities in northern Iraq," details eye-witness accounts of those who survived what the rights group described as a “massacre,” in the Sinjar region in Northen Iraq where the Yazidi community dwells.


Witnesses interviewed by Amnesty International told accounts of dozens of men and boys being captured from their hometowns in the Sinjar region to be taken to remote locations where they were collectively killed or individually shot.

Witnesses also told of the hundreds or “possibly thousands” of Yazidi children, women, and men being held by ISIS since they have taken control of the area.

“The massacres and abductions being carried out by the Islamic State [of Iraq and Syria] provide harrowing new evidence that a wave of ethnic cleansing against minorities is sweeping across northern Iraq” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser in a statement released by the rights group.

“The Islamic State [of Iraq and Syria] is carrying out despicable crimes and has transformed rural areas of Sinjar into blood-soaked killing fields in its brutal campaign to obliterate all trace of non- Arabs and non-Sunni Muslims,” Rovera, who is currently in northern Iraq, said.

According to the report, the two deadliest incidents of the mass killings orchestrated by ISIS took place when the extremist militants raided the villages of Qiniyeh on August 3 and Kocho on August 15 in Sinjar.

Hundreds of people were killed in these two villages in addition to the groups of men and boys that were seized only to be taken away and shot.

"The mass killings and abductions have succeeded in terrorizing the entire population in northern Iraq, leading thousands to flee in fear for their lives," said the watchdog.

“There was no order, they [the ISIS fighters] just filled up vehicles indiscriminately,” one survivor of the massacre in Kocho is quoted by Amnesty International as saying.

“Some could not move and could not save themselves; they lay there in agony waiting to die. They died a horrible death. I managed to drag myself away and was saved by a Muslim neighbor; he risked his life to save me; he is more than a brother to me. For 12 days he brought me food and water every night,” Salem, who hid from the ISIS near the massacre site for 12 days told the watchdog.

Like Salem, hundreds of thousands have escaped violence to Kurdish-controlled areas.

"Their situation is absolutely terrible: they need everything and they are getting very little help for now,” Rovera told Al Arabiya News.

“The Kurdish government is clearly completely overwhelmed, because it finds itself with such an enormous number of people,” she added.

Challenges of sectarianism

Rovera urged Iraqi authorities to track down and bring to justice "those ordering, carrying out or assisting in these war crimes".

“Our call is for a government that could set up armed and security forces which are able and willing to protect all the population including the minorities. Unfortunately, this is not what we have seen in recent months and in recent days,” she said in a phone interview.

Amnesty International’s report comes a day after Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri said there was “strong evidence” that ISIS, and allied groups had carried out targeted killings, forced conversions, sexual abuse and torture in Iraq.

The United Nations agreed on Monday to send investigators to Iraq to examine crimes being committed by ISIS militants on “an unimaginable scale,” with a view to holding perpetrators to account.

ISIS, which declared a “caliphate” in June in parts of Iraq and Syria under its control, has been cited as a major security threat by Western governments, particularly following the August beheading of U.S journalist James Foley by an ISIS militant.

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