A number of human rights groups warned on Friday that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) may be targeting Iraq’s minorities for annihilation.
“Minority communities in Iraq have been targeted by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in a systematic strategy to remove them permanently from large areas of Iraq,” a group of human rights organizations said in a report delivered to the Human Rights Subcommittee of the European Parliament in Brussels.
In recent months and since their capture of Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, ISIL fighters have targeted the Christian, Yazidi and Kurdish and other minorities in the area.
In June, Christians fled en masse from Mosul, where they have maintained a nearly 2,000-year presence after ISIL threatened them with execution if they did not convert to Islam.
ISIL’s quick sweep of Iraq’s north included occupation of hundreds of villages and lead to a new refugee crisis comprising mostly Yazidi civilians.
Since then, the UN and various rights groups have claimed that hundreds of Yazidi women and girls were sold as sex slaves amid the execution of males of adult age.
The report – titled Between the Millstones: Iraqs Minorities Since the Fall of Mosul – was compiled from comprehensive field work and interviews by a number of groups including the Institute of International Law and Human Rights (IILHR), Minority Rights Group International (MRG), No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO).
“While military action against ISIS dominates the headlines, to date there has been no serious effort to bring the perpetrators of crimes against minorities to justice,” says William Spencer, Director of IILHR, said in a join press release.
“Minorities were first caught by wholesale discrimination and violence well before the arrival of ISIS. Now they face a new threat to their existence from ISIS attacks,” he added.
NPWJ said ISIL had committed war crimes that could even be seen as genocide against minorities in northern Iraq.
Writing for The BRICS POST, political commentator Firas Al-Atraqchi says that the “purge of minorities” in Iraq could have been avoided had early warnings been heeded.
The Mandeans, or Sabians, a sect of people who follow the teachings of John the Baptist and pre-date Christianity and Islam in Iraq, have since 2003 been forced to leave en masse because of a brutal campaign against them.
Once numbering nearly 75,000 and located in southern Iraq, they were told to either convert to Islam or face death – much like the Christians and Yazidis in 2014.
“Sabian Mandaean/Mandaeans face extinction as a people. Around two-thirds of the population has been expelled or killed since 2003,” said a report by Minority Rights Group International in 2008.
The BRICS POST with inputs from Agencies