Many Ezidis Still Fear Returning To Sinjar

Many Ezidis Still Fear Returning To Sinjar

The streets and playgrounds of the Iraqi town of Sinjar are once again seeing signs of life.

Hundreds of families have returned three years after Islamic State militants launched an assault on the Ezidi religious community's heartland in northern Iraq.

Sinjar was home to around 400,000 Ezidis. About 3,100 Ezidis were killed - with more than half shot, beheaded or burned alive - and about 6,800 kidnapped to become sex slaves or fighters, according to a report published in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS Medicine, in May.

Thousands of captured men were killed in what a United Nations commission called a genocide against the Ezidis, a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions. Islamic State considers them devil-worshipers.

While some Ezidis have returned to their homes since the recapture of the city, thousands are yet to return.

A resident said the lack of infrastructure and facilities such as hospitals and schools are the reasons why the Ezidis refrain from returning. Another man said people fear similar hardline militant groups may recapture in the city in the future.

The designation of genocide, rare under international law, would mark the first recognized genocide carried out by non-state actors, rather than a state or paramilitaries acting on its behalf.

Islamic State (ISIS) has systematically killed, captured or enslaved thousands of Ezidis when it overran the town of Sinjar in northern Iraq in August 2014.

Proclaiming a theocratic caliphate based on a radical interpretation of Sunni Islam, ISIS has tried to erase the Ezidis' identity by forcing men to choose between conversion to Islam or death, raping girls as young as nine, selling women at slave markets, and drafting boys to fight.