As many as 3,000 Iraqi women have been taken captive in the last two weeks by the Islamist terror group Islamic State (formerly ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), as the group has run rampant across northern Iraq and eastern Syria. Hundreds of men have been shot to death or beheaded.
According to UN officials, “barbaric acts” of sexual violence including “savage rapes” have been perpetrated against women, teenage girls and boys from the Yazidis, Christians, Turkomen and Shabak – all minority groups in Iraq.
Adding to the horror, Yazidi parents report that their daughters who managed to escape after being raped and joined their families who had taken refuge on Mount Sinjar committed suicide. After begging others to kill them (a request that was refused), the girls jumped off the mountain cliff and plunged to their deaths.
In addition, after overrunning the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor, the Islamic State is reported to have executed 700 members of the al-Sheitaat tribe prominent in the area. Most of those executed were said to be civilians. The executions took place by beheading.
The Islamist group has been battling the tribe since last month when it overtook two oil fields in the area.
"We appeal to the other tribes to stand by us because it will be their turn next … If (Islamic State) are done with us the other tribes will be targeted after al-Sheitaat. They are the next target," said the head of the al-Sheitaat tribe, Sheikh Rafaa Aakla al-Raju, in a video message posted on YouTube.
The Islamic State has given tribes, communities and entire cities in Syria and Iraq the choose between death or conversion to Islam and allegiance to the militant group.
Locals report that choice was given to the Yazidis in Kojo when the Islamic State over the village in northern Iraq early last week. The group spent five days preaching to the Yazidis to accept Islam and join forces with the Islamic State. When the Yazidis — who adhere to an ancient religion that re-dates Islam — refused, the slaughter began.
Eighty men were reportedly rounded up and shot, while more than 100 women and girls were kidnapped. Mahama Khalil, a Yazidi member of Iraq’s parliament, said the massacre took place during a one-hour period.
Speaking to Reuters, a senior Kurdish official, Hoshiyar Zebari, said on Friday, “They [the Islamic State] arrived in vehicles and they started their killing this afternoon. We believe it's because of their creed: convert or be killed.”
Zebari said the women and girls were most likely taken to the cities of Mosul and Tal Afar, both under control of the Islamic State.
Amid reports that 500 Yazidi men had been slaughtered to date by the Islamic State, a British jihadist writing on Twitter Wednesday said that the Islamist group was holding hundreds of Iraqi women as sex slaves for the group in Syria.
“I can confirm that we have hundreds of yazidi slave women now in Syria, how about that for news!” tweeted Nasser (Abul) Muthana, 20, a former school boy from Cardiff. Muthana, who was accepted to four medical schools, made headlines earlier this year when he and another successful British friend both left the UK to join the Islamic State in Syria. The two were featured in a high-profile recruiting video in English.
The tweet, which has since been deleted, is thought to be referring to reports that 300 women from the Yazidi community were kidnapped from near Mount Sinnjar when the terror group laid siege to the area where the refugees had escaped to for 10 days.
The U.S. has continued airstrikes against the group in northern Iraq, helping Kurdish forces who are trying to retake the strategic Mosul dam. The Islamic State is reported to have 400 fighters guarding the dam.
Meanwhile, in Bagdad, Iraq former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has agreed to step down amid international and domestic pressure to let Haider al-Abadi, a veteran Shiite politician take over leadership of the embattled country.
Yazidi survivors tell of the horror of the girls' suicides:
A man recounts his brothers' death at the hands of the Islamic State: