Wednesday, April 8, 2015, ISIS released 217 Yazidi women, children, and elderly from some prison camps in Northern Iraq. The Peshmerga forces, or the Kurdish forces in Northern Iraq, accepted the ISIS release of 217 Yazidi’s in Himera, which is just south west of Kirkuk. These Yazidi’s were held in the prison city of Tal Afar after ISIS attacked the Yazidi city of Sinjar in August of 2014. “General Hiwa Abdullah, a Peshmerga commander in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, said most of the freed 216 prisoners were in poor health and bore signs of abuse and neglect.”
The Yazidi people are one of the oldest monotheistic religions in the Middle East where the beliefs are a combination of Christian, Judaism, and Islam, but its main derivative is from Zoroastrianism. The Yazidi have a high concentration in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq and speak predominately Kurdish. They believe that God created the world and named a Peacock Angel, named Melek Taus, as the world-ruler. Many other monotheist religions, namely ISIS, consider this angel to be the equivalent of Satan or Lucifer. Calling the Yazidi “devil worshipers” they have been under persecution by many Muslim factions over their entire existence. ISIS, however, has taken this persecution to a whole new level.
In August, ISIS attacked a predominately Yazidi city named Sinjar. In the process 50,000 to 60,000 Yazidi fled to the nearby mountain Mount Sinjar where they were forced to stay for a couple months. Starvation and malnutrition was rampant before relief forces could give them food and assist them to a new city. “The militants took all of our money and jewelry. We have been living under constant fear till our release,” said Jar-Allah Frensis, an 88-year-old Christian farmer. Unfortunately, this was not the only thing that ISIS took from the city.
During the August attack of Sinjar in August, ISIS committed many war crimes against the Yazidi’s of Sinjar. ISIS started the raid with its usual, “Convert to Islam or die” and then proceeded to murder or kidnap everybody anyway. ISIS deals with men and women separately. According to a UN report, ISIS, “gathered all the males older than 10 years of age at the local school, took them outside the village by pick-up trucks, and shot them.” This resulted in roughly 5,000 Yazidi men dead during the month of August. The women suffered a worse fate, though. The women and young children are kidnapped and detained in different prisoners around ISIS territory. They are then placed in the concubines of ISIS fighter’s or sold into slavery, namely sex slavery. “They have been subjected to physical and sexual violence, including systematic rape and sex slavery. They’ve been exposed in markets in Mosul and in Raqqa, Syria, carrying price tags,” said Nazand Begikhani, an adviser to the Kurdistan Regional Government on gender issues. There are a confirmed 4,061 Yazidi women that are currently missing and an estimated 7,000 total. Islamic scholars sent a letter to ISIS claiming, “The reintroduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam. It was abolished by universal consensus.” But ISIS retorted by saying that “Islamic Sharia law allows the enslavement of innocent ‘polytheists and pagans’ but not of those the militants regard as simply heretical”, and ISIS views the Yazidi as Pagans.
While no reasons for the release have been given yet, there are many different speculations on why the prisoners were released. One is that ISIS was much over its capacity to hold prisoners any longer. However, this is difficult to believe because ISIS would probably murder all these people before they decided to let them go. Another may be that these people were much to sick to be taken care of in the prison camps and ISIS was worried about the spread of disease. But the same reasoning for ISIS to not just kill these people applies. The only piece of information known about the release of the Yazibi is that Arab tribal leaders helped to coordinate it. This has been done once before for the release of similar subjects. These exchanges may be some monetary trade for the lives of the Yazidi at a great price. This theory is the most viable because ISIS knows that it will stay alive as long as it has the money to stay alive. The articles stated that jewelry and money was stolen from the Yazidi’s when ISIS attacked them. More than likely the jewelry was sold and added to fund the Islamic States regime, only supporting this theory.
ISIS releases more than 200 Yazidis, Kurdish officials say – http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/08/world/isis-yazidis-released/
Isis releases over 200 Iraqi Yazidis after eight months in captivity – http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/08/isis-releases-over-200-iraqi-yazidis-eight-months-captivity
‘Treated like cattle’: Yazidi women sold, raped, enslaved by ISIS – http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/30/world/meast/isis-female-slaves/index.html
Islamic State committing ‘staggering’ crimes in Iraq: U.N. report – http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/02/us-mideast-crisis-un-idUSKCN0HR0R120141002
Yazidis – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yazidis
Persecution of Yazidis by ISIL – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Yazidis_by_ISIL#cite_note-5.2C000_Kurdish_Yazidis_executed_by_ISIL-11