In a speech marking the beginning of the Yazidi New Year, the president of Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani vowed to protect Yazidi citizens.
Stating that the Yazidis are an “indivisible part of Kurdistan,” Barzani promised that he would not let “terrorists” harm them.
“No enemy has been ever be able to destroy the Kurdish Yezidis and that is why despite all inhuman acts of the Daesh [ISIS] terrorists against Shingal, they could never demolish your strong will.”
The Yazidis, a Kurdish minority group practicing an ancient religion, have borne the brunt of ISIS militant group’s brutality.
Similar to many other local ethnic, tribal, and religious groups the Yazidis have been exposed to slavery, mass killings and torture at the hands of ISIS.
ISIS militants took over the the Yazidis’ homeland of Sinjar in August following a blitzing June offensive which saw the militants capture large swaths of land on the heels of the retreating Iraqi army.
"An estimated 130,000 Yazidis fled for their lives and sought refuge in the Kurdistan region,” said Barzani.
In August, hundreds of thousands of Yazidis fled Sinjar into the KRG where they reside in temporary refugee establishments, the largest of which is run by Turkey’s state emergency response organization AFAD.
The United Nations reported in January that 50,000 Yazidis, mostly children, who fled Sinjar are still unaccounted for.
Stating that the Peshmerga recaptured Sinjar in December to protect their “brothers and sisters,” Barzani remarked that ISIS’ attack on the Yazidis was a tragedy for the KRG and that now the “majority of Shingal district has been liberated by Peshmerga forces.”
“Nothing will ever divide the Kurdish Yazidis from Kurdistan and the Kurdish nation.”
Last week, ISIS released 200 Yazidi prisoners in Kirkuk.
Peshmerga officials reported that most of those released were elderly and in declining physical health, and had to be sent to hospitals for treatment.