It is an almost biblical plight; cast from their homes into the barren desert where, if hunger, thirst, or the heat does not kill them then Sunni religious fanatics will.
The Yazidi Kurdish minority has survived nearly a thousand years of mistrust and persecution. Can it survive the catastrophe of the past few days?
Over 200,000 Yazidis have taken to the road since the Sunnis took their home city of Sinjar in northern Iraq and told them to convert to Islam or die.
Yet it was only when a desperate plea from a Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament went viral that the wider world really took notice.
Vian Dakhil became the public face of Yazidis everywhere.
“My brothers, forget your political quarrels, we need humanitarian solidarity, I speak in the name of humanity, save us! Save us! We are being massacred, exterminated, and our religion is in the process of being wiped from the face of the earth. I beg you, in the name of humanity, save us!” she said before breaking down in tears. Iraqi politicians were stunned into silence by her appeal, and stood up in respect.
Between 15,000 and 30,000 Yazidis were able to make a daring escape over the mountains to Syria, but it was just a transit point before returning and heading for Kurdistan. Very few make it over the Turkish border.
Neither Muslim nor Christian some see them as “devil-worshippers”, yet they revere Mohammed and Jesus. Just who are the Yazidis?
Their roots plunge deep into antique Persia, Iran today, and there are also communities in Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Germany, Canada, and the USA.
Around 750.000 live in Iraq, in the region neighbouring Kurdistan. Today none of them feel safe, despite protection from the Iraqi constitution which guarantees their religious freedom. Baghdad is in no position to help right now.
It did not protect them either in 2007 when they felt the first blast of the sectarian violence to come. A wave of car bombings and killings sent a shiver of fear through the community.
Now their very existence is threatened, and the Yazidi’s sudden arrival in Kurdistan in their hundreds of thousands hard on the heels of over 100,000 Christian refugees is a huge problem for the Kurds, who are not prepared.
Food, shelter and medicines are in short supply, and the international community is failing to provide enough aid to the Kurds, themselves now hard-pressed by the well-armed Islamic State militants.
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