Iraq’s Yazidis have marked three years since Islamic State (Isil) launched what the United Nations said was a genocidal campaign against them, but their ordeal is far from over, despite the jihadist fighters being ousted.
Militants were driven out of the last part of the Yazidi homeland in northern Iraq in May, but most people have yet to return to villages they fled when Isil over-ran Sinjar in the summer of 2014, killing and capturing thousands because of their faith.
Nearly 3,000 Yazidi women and children remain in Isil captivity, and control over Sinjar is disputed by rival armed factions and their regional patrons.
Justice for the crimes Yazidis suffered, including sexual enslavement, has also so far proved elusive.
“The Yazidis’ wound is still bleeding,” one man told reporters at a ceremony attended by several thousand people, including the mayor and other local dignitaries, held at a temple at the foot of the mountain that dominates Sinjar.
“The Kurds and the Iraqi government are fighting for Sinjar and we are paying the price,” said the man.
Thousands of captured men were killed in what a United Nations commission called a genocide against the Yazidis, a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions.
Isil considers Yazidis to be devil-worshippers.
Images of desperate Yazidis fleeing up the mountain in the blazing summer heat were broadcast around the world and helped to galvanise the United States to conduct its first air strikes against Isil in Iraq.
At least 9,900 of Iraq’s Yazidis were killed or kidnapped in just days in the Isil attack in 2014, according to a study documenting the number of Yazidis affected, which could be used as evidence in any trial for genocide.
About 3,100 Yazidis were killed – with more than half shot, beheaded or burned alive – and about 6,800 were kidnapped to become sex slaves or fighters, according to the report published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.