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Crisis in Iraq

Yazidi refugees: A desperate struggle

Since early June, tens of thousands of Iraqis have fled Islamic State militants who have targeted religious minorities in a violent rampage across northwestern Iraq. Thousands remain in need of food, water, shelter and safety. Last month, the militants attacked one of Iraq’s oldest minorities, the Yazidi people of Sinjar. Some 122,585 men, women, and children fled into Syria as a result of the attack.

"They held machines guns to our chests and say that we have to change our religion," says one Yazidi man who fled Sinjar with his family. "We said we won’t change our religion even if you behead us."

Uprooted Yazidis share their stories in this new International Rescue Committee video, which also features the IRC’s Rachel Unkovic describing the desperate humanitarian situation they face.

"They need to be able to tuck their children in at night," Unkovic says "and know that they can send their children back to school in the morning.

Read the full video transcript

Video Transcript

Title: Iraq-Syrian Border

Yazidi Man 1: They held machines guns to our chests and say that we have to change our religion. We said we won’t change our religion even if you behead us. Title: The Islamic State, a former affiliate of Al Qaeda, has violently targeted religious minorities in its recent rampage through northwestern Iraq. Title: In early August, the Islamic State attacked one of Iraq’s oldest religious minorities, the Yazidi people of Sinjar. Title: Approximately, 122,585 men, women, and children fled into Syria as a result of the attack. Yazidi Man 1: They did not have mercy for anyone.

Yazidi Woman 1: They captured our people and took them away. They beheaded women and children.

Rachel Unkovic: At 2am, children were waking up from gunshots and from bombs and mortars. The people who are currently in this hall right now ran into the Sinjar mountains where they were stuck for up to 10 days without adequate food, without adequate water. Rachel Unkovic: Eventually, some of them were able to escape from the mountains and they had to walk 60km by foot. So they fled Iraq into Syria, a country with its own massive conflict. Rachel Unkovic: At the Syrian border, there were cars that had been prearranged to pick them up. Once they got north, people fled back into Iraq. It’s their home country, but it’s not their homes, it’s not Sinjar. Rachel Unkovic: The families that we see here, they’re some of the ones who fled back into Iraq. They’re living with absolutely nothing. They fled with the clothes on their back and their children in their arms.

Title: The IRC is providing water, medicine, and basic essential items to the displaced Yazidis. Rachel Unkovic: Right now, these people need shelter. They need a safe place to sleep that’s not a hall with a thousand other people in it. They need a roof over their heads. They need security. They need to be able to tuck their children in at night and know that they can send their children back to school in the morning. Yazidi Man 2: There are half a million Yazidis in the world, but we have a different religion. What is the fate of all these people? We are staying at the schools of Kurdistan. Yazidi Woman 1: We will not go back to Shingal (Sinjar Mountain). Not until it becomes safe because they will kill us.