Photofunia 2014 [EXCLUSIVE]
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The Sinjar massacre (Kurdish: Komkujiya Şengalê) marked the beginning of the genocide of Yazidis by ISIL, the killing and abduction of thousands of Yazidi men, women and children. It took place in August 2014 in Sinjar city and Sinjar District in Iraq's Nineveh Governorate and was perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The massacre began with ISIL attacking and capturing Sinjar and neighboring towns on 3 August, during its Northern Iraq offensive.
On 8 August 2014, the United States and the United Kingdom responded with airstrikes on ISIL units and convoys in northern Iraq, which led to a military intervention from several countries against ISIL.
On 17 December 2014, the Kurdish Peshmerga, PKK and YPG forces started the December 2014 Sinjar offensive with the support of US and British airstrikes. This offensive broke ISIL's troop transport routes and supply lines between Mosul and Raqqa, the largest cities in the Islamic State at the time.
On 29 June 2014, the Islamic State declared a caliphate in the contiguous areas of Syria and Iraq it controlled, after it had made significant advances in northern Iraq during the Northern Iraq offensive (June 2014). After Iraqi federal military forces fled from the advancing ISIL troops, local residents seized their abandoned weapons in case of an attack by the Islamic State. Kurdistan Regional Government Peshmerga fighters then moved into and took control of much of the abandoned territory in northern Iraq from their stronghold in the Kurdistan Region. The Peshmerga confiscated the weapons the Iraqi Army had abandoned, assuring residents that they would protect them.
On the morning of 3 August 2014, ISIL forces captured the city of Sinjar as well as the Sinjar area. ISIL then detonated the Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque in Sinjar, executed resisters, and demanded the residents to swear allegiance and to convert to Islam or be killed.
Tahseen Said, the emir of the Yazidis, issued an appeal to world leaders on 3 August 2014, asking for humanitarian help to aid those who were besieged by ISIL. On 4 August, Kurdish fighters reportedly battled ISIL to retake Sinjar.
On 7 August 2014, The New York Times reported that ISIL had executed dozens of Yazidi men in Sinjar city and had taken their wives for forced marriage. It was also reported that ISIL fighters executed ten caretakers of the Shia Sayeda Zeinab shrine in Sinjar before blowing it up.
On 15 August 2014, in the Yazidi village of Kocho, south of Sinjar, over 80 men were killed after refusing to convert to Islam.A witness recounted that the villagers were first converted under duress, According to reports from survivors interviewed by OHCHR, on 15 August, the entire male population of the Yazidi village of Kocho, up to 400 men, were rounded up and shot by ISIL, and up to 1,000 women and children were abducted.
A civilian reported that on 3 August 2014 alone, 2,000 Yazidis had been killed throughout the Sinjar District. A Yazidi member of the Council of Representatives of Iraq said that between 2 and 5 August, 500 Yazidi men had been killed in the city of Sinjar by ISIL, women had been killed or sold into slavery, and 70 children had died from thirst or suffocation while fleeing the ISIL advance.
From the findings of a joint October 2014 report of the OHCHR and UNAMI, ISIL had massacred up to 5000 Yazidi men during August 2014. Kurdistan Region estimated in December 2014 that the total number of killed or missing Yazidi men, women and children from Sinjar since August amounted to around 4,000.
On 5 August 2014, Iraqi military helicopters reportedly dropped some food and water for the Yazidis in the mountains. The US began their own supply drops on 7 August and the UK participated 3 days later. French aid was also promised.
On 7 August 2014, the U.S. President, Barack Obama, stated that the U.S. was starting air strikes to prevent a potential massacre (genocide) by ISIL of thousands of Yazidis trapped in the Sinjar Mountains. Obama further defended his decision by saying:
On 8 August 2014, US airstrikes were launched in the Erbil area, 180 km east of Sinjar. The first airstrikes in the Mount Sinjar area were reported on 9 August, when the US launched four strikes against armored fighting vehicles of ISIL fighters threatening civilians on Mount Sinjar. The continued Iraqi airdrops of food and water in the Sinjar Mountains and their picking up of some Yazidis were also backed up by the U.S. airstrikes.
Between 9 and 11 August 2014, a safe corridor was established from the mountain enabling 10,000 people to evacuate on the first day. Kurdish fighters of Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) entered the Sinjar Mountains with trucks and tractors to carry out the sick and elderly into Syria via a path that was cleared by Syrian Kurdish militants (YPG). According to Dr. Salim Hassan, a professor at the University of Sulaymaniyah and spokesman of the uprooted Yazidis, the PKK and YPG enabled an estimated 35,000 of the initially 50,000 trapped Yazidis to escape into Syria. According to the account of the Sinjar District Governor, the route was jointly set up by Peshmerga and the YPG.
On 12 or 13 August 2014, a dozen U.S. Marines and special forces servicemen landed on Mount Sinjar from V-22 aircraft to assess options for a potential rescue of Yazidi refugees joining British SAS already in the area. They reported that \"the situation is much more manageable\", that there were now far fewer Yazidis on the mountain than expected, and that those Yazidis were in relatively good condition. A U.S. rescue mission for those still on the mountain was therefore \"far less likely now\", said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
The U.S. government officially declared the siege to be broken on 13 August 2014. This was reportedly done by U.S airstrikes and Kurdish fighters of the People's Protection Units from Syria, together with their PKK allies from Turkey, allowing more than 50,000 refugees to escape. Despite this, according to Professor Salim Hassan, between 5,000 and 10,000 people still remained trapped in the mountains. They were reportedly afraid to return to their homes and were sustained in the coming months by airdrops from a lone Iraqi helicopter.
On 13 August 2014, fewer than 20 United States Special Forces troops stationed in Irbil along with Special Air Service troops visited the area near Mount Sinjar to gather intelligence and plan the evacuation of approximately 30,000 Yazidis still trapped on Mount Sinjar. One hundred and twenty-nine additional US military personnel were deployed to Irbil to assess and provide a report to President Obama. The United States Central Command also reported that a seventh airdrop was conducted and that to date, 114,000 meals and more than 35,000 gallons of water had been airdropped to the displaced Yazidis in the area.
In a statement on 14 August 2014, The Pentagon said that the 20 US personnel who had visited the previous day had concluded that a rescue operation was probably unnecessary since there was less danger from exposure or dehydration and the Yazidis were no longer believed to be at risk of attack from ISIL. Estimates also stated that 4,000 to 5,000 people remained on the mountain, with nearly half of them being Yazidi herders who lived there before the siege.
After August 2014, ISIL held the town of Sinjar. Several thousand Yazidis remained in the Sinjar Mountains located to the city's north, sustained by airdrops from a lone Iraqi helicopter, while an escape road from the mountains northward to Kurdish areas was under Kurdish/Yazidi control. American officials said that some of those Yazidis considered the Sinjar Mountains a place of refuge and home and did not want to leave; while a report from The New Yorker said some were afraid to return to their homes. Other Yazidis also came to the mountains after the August evacuations.
On 17 December 2014, Peshmerga forces, backed by 50 U.S.-led coalition airstrikes on ISIL positions, launched an offensive to liberate Sinjar and to break the partial siege of the Sinjar Mountains. In less than two days, the Peshmerga seized the mountain range. After ISIL forces retreated, Kurdish fighters were initially faced with clearing out mines in the area, but quickly opened a land corridor that enabled Yazidis to be evacuated. The operation left 100 ISIL fighters dead.
Late on 21 December 2014, Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters south of the mountain range reached Peshmerga lines, thus linking their two fronts. The next day, the YPG broke through ISIL lines, thus opening a corridor from Syria to the town of Sinjar. By the evening, the Peshmerga took control of much of Sinjar.
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