Report: Gruesome Eyewitness Accounts of 'Ethnic Cleansing on a Historic Scale,' Massacres in Iraq

Barbara Boland | September 4, 2014 | 11:29am EDT
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Amnesty International released a 26-page report "that provides harrowing new evidence" of the Islamic State's "ethnic cleansing on a historic scale," the "systematic targeting of ethnic and religious minorities," along with dozens of eyewitness accounts of gruesome mass executions within Iraq.

Survivors recount horrific massacres of men and boys by Islamic State fighters in northern Iraq and the Sinjar region. Women and children are captured, enslaved, raped or sold into sexual slavery. Thousands, feared to have been abducted, have not been heard from again. Over 830,000 people have been driven from their homes in fear of their lives.

"The Islamic State is carrying out despicable crimes and has transformed rural areas of Sinjar into blood-soaked killing fields in its brutal campaign to obliterate all trace of non- Arabs and non-Sunni Muslims," Donatella Rovera, Senior Adviser to Amnesty International said Tuesday.

The report states that minorities that have lived together in the Ninevah province for centuries, like the Assyrian Christians, Turkmen Shi'a, Shabak Shi'a, Yezidis, Kakai and Sabean Mandaeans, have been threatened with death if they do not convert to Islam. When they refuse to convert, there have been mass executions of men and boys, while women and girls have been abducted. There are reports that they have been sold into sexual slavery or forced into marriage.

Here is the account of eyewitness Hawwas Hashem, who had hidden himself nearby Qiniyeh in June:

"After hours of clashes with the IS militants who were attacking our village we were overpowered and fled toward the mountain. Many of us stopped in Qiniyeh; there had been no clashes there and we thought we would be safe. There were many families, men, women and children. Hundreds all together. The IS men left and after a while they came back with several vehicles. Four of the vehicles surrounded the house where I was with my family.

"I ran away and hid in a nearby hill. From there I could see what was happening. It was early afternoon - broad daylight. They brought all the people out of the houses and divided the men from the women and children. They put the women and children in vehicles and drove away and marched the men and some young boys to the wadi nearby. They made them kneel or crouch along the edge of the wadi, and shot them in the back. I counted about 67 who were killed and some others survived and ran away after the IS militants left. Then I ran away from the hill to Mount Sinjar."

Amnesty Inernational reports that witnesses indicate up to 80-85 men and boys "were shot dead on the edge of the village of Qiniyeh [and] many more are reported to have been killed in smaller groups further away from the village..."

From the report:

Amnesty International has gathered evidence that several mass killings took place in Sinjar in August. Two of the deadliest incidents took place when IS fighters raided the villages of Qiniyeh on 3 August and Kocho on 15 August. The number of those killed in these villages alone runs into the hundreds. Groups of men and boys including children as young as 12 from both villages were seized by IS militants, taken away and shot.

...Salem, who managed to hide and survive near the massacre site for 12 days, described to Amnesty International the horror of hearing others who had been injured cry out in pain.

"Some could not move and could not save themselves; they lay there in agony waiting to die. They died a horrible death. I managed to drag myself away and was saved by a Muslim neighbour; he risked his life to save me; he is more than a brother to me. For 12 days he brought me food and water every night. I could not walk and had no hope of getting away and it was becoming increasingly dangerous for him to continue to keep me there," he said.

Salem escaped by donkey to an area controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), where he was able to tell his account to Amnesty International.

The fates of thousands of women and children who were abducted or held captive by the Islamic State remains unknown.

Canon Andrew White, known as the Vicar of Baghdad, called the situation in Iraq "the worst reality of religious persecution since the Holocaust," and as has documented, the Islamic State has beheaded children and conducted public crucifixions.

"The forced displacement of Iraq's ethnic and religious minorities, including some of the region's oldest communities, is a tragedy of historic proportions," says the report. "Amnesty International's field investigations have concluded that the IS is systematically and deliberately carrying out a program of ethnic cleansing in the areas under its control. This is not only destroying lives, but also causing irreparable damage to the fabric of Iraq's society, and fuelling inter-ethnic, sectarian and inter-religious tensions in the region and beyond."

"The unjustifiable killings [of journalists Sotloff and Foley] are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to abuses by the IS in Syria and Iraq," said Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme. "Efforts must also be made to seek justice for the hundreds of other victims of the Islamic State's crimes, and protect the minority groups that remain most at risk from their attacks."

“A genocide is unfolding against Syrians and other minorities across Syria and Iraq’s national borders,” Nuri Kino, a Swedish-Assyrian investigative journalist wrote today. “And the rest of the world… are silent bystanders to this horror.”
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