Yazidis, a historically persecuted non-Muslim people in the Middle East, are yet again fleeing for their lives — this time from Turkey-backed jihadists invading Afrin in northern Syria.
Murad Ismael, executive director of Yazda, a relief organization for Yazidi victims of genocide, has alerted the world to the deadly threat posed by Turkish airstrikes many times on his social media accounts and on March 12 wrote on Twitter:
“We are evaluating what to do when the [whole] city falls, including an option to ask our people to leave the region altogether. We cannot have our people in Afrin under Al Nusra and other fundamentalists.”
On March 18, his worst fears became reality. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that the Turkish military and Turkey-backed jihadists of Free Syrian Army (FSA) took complete control of Afrin city center.
Saad Babir, Yazda’s media director, said that since the beginning of the invasion, jihadists have attacked and captured several Yazidi villages as Turkish planes bombed the area including the Yazidi village of Ternda, which has been bombed by the Turkish military around 20 times.
There are 30 Yazidi villages located in Afrin and surrounding territories with a Yazidi population of around 20,000, Babir said in an exclusive interview with Haym Salomon Center.
The death toll has been heavy. “Many Yazidi civilians, including children, have been murdered,” Babir said.
Hundreds of Yazidis have already fled their villages, and they are in need of food and medicine, he added.
Babir also pointedly remarked that Turkey-backed jihadists have destroyed many Yazidi temples in Afrin and converted others into mosques.
Yazidis are an indigenous and oppressed minority in the region with their own unique culture. The Islamic State (ISIS) invasion of Sinjar, the homeland of the Yazidis in Iraq, in August 2014 finally brought this persecuted community to the attention of the world.