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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

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The scars on Mr Khudir’s body attest to the persecution of the Yazidis that pre-dated the attempted genocide of the religious minority by IS extremists.

Following the US invasion of Iraq, his home in Til Ezer was targeted a coordinated suicide car bomb attack that killed 796 people in the town and another nearby settlement. Mr Khudir was among the 1,500 wounded, spending two months in hospital. 

Sunni Muslim extremists believe the Yazidi to be infidels and when IS fighters overran much of North West Iraq in summer 2014, the minority group was targeted for eradication. Thousands of men and women were killed and buried in mass graves, and thousands of women and children were kidnapped, in what the UN later described as a genocide. 

“Of my relatives alone, IS took 74 of them,” Mr Khudir said. “Only a few ever came back. All the men who went missing, we don’t know what happened to them.”

At least 500,000 Yazidi were forced into exile. Most have either left Iraq or remain in camps like Sharia, a sprawling settlement of tents that has taken on some of the structure of a town but with few comforts. 

Although IS was defeated militarily by mid-2017, few Yazidi have been able to return to Sinjar and their villages, many of which were destroyed by IS militants and coalition air strikes. 

Today, the region is disputed territory, claimed both by the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government – neither of which have invested in rebuilding.

The presence of Iraqi federal forces, Shiite militias, Kurdish Peshmerga, militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and IS sleeper cells made the region dangerous for the Yazidi, Mr Khudir said. 

“All those armed groups are in conflict and that poses a threat to our people,” he said. “In the past four months, four of our people went missing after returning to visit Sinjar. We don’t know who took them.”

Even in the camp, Mr Khudir said they were not safe. A massive fire tore through Sharia in June, burning 400 tents, with many families able to save their belongings or documents. 

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