Jonathan Krohn has become to the first western journalist to reach the mountains in Northern Iraq where tens of thousands of Yazidis, a Middle Eastern religious sect, took flight to escape the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces that moved into the Kurdish parts of Iraq last week.
Krohn describes the scene of human suffering in stark terms in his first dispatch for The Telegraph.
I was on board an Iraqi Army helicopter, and watched as hundreds of refugees ran towards it to receive one of the few deliveries of aid to make it to the mountain. The helicopter dropped water and food from its open gun bays to them as they waited below. General Ahmed Ithwany, who led the mission, told me: “It is death valley. Up to 70 per cent of them are dead.”
Two American aid flights have also made it to the mountain, where they have dropped off more than 36,000 meals and 7,000 gallons of drinking water to help the refugees, and last night two RAF C-130 transport planes were also on the way.
However, Iraqi officials said that much of the US aid had been “useless” because it was dropped from 15,000 ft without parachutes and exploded on impact.
Perhaps in response to Krohn’s report, late Sunday the U.S. Department of Defense released these two videos showing Iraqi refugees on the ground retrieving the humanitarian aid after being dropped by U.S. forces.
Nevertheless, Krohn reports that the situation on the ground is perilous and the U.S. aid may be too late for the majority of refugees who fled the slaughter by ISIS troops.
Mikey Hassan said he, his two brothers and their families fled up into Mount Sinjar and then managed to escape to the Kurdish city of Dohuk after two days, by shooting their way past the jihadists. Mr Hassan said he and his family went for 17 hours with no food before getting their hands on some bread.
The Yazidis, an ethnically Kurdish community that has kept its religion alive for centuries in the face of persecution, are at particular threat from the Islamists, who regard them as ‘devil worshippers’, and drove them from their homes as the peshmerga fighters withdrew.
There have been repeated stories that the jihadists have seized hundreds of Yazidi women and are holding them in Mosul, either in schools or the prison. These cannot be confirmed, though they are widely believed and several Yazidi refugees said they had been unable to contact Yazidi women relatives who were living behind Islamic State lines.
Kamil Amin, of the Iraqi human rights ministry, said: “We think that the terrorists by now consider them slaves and they have vicious plans for them.”
Tens of thousands of Christians have also been forced to flee in the face of the advancing IS fighters, many cramming the roads east and north to Erbil and Dohuk. On Thursday alone, up to 100,000 Iraqi Christians fled their homes in the Plain of Ninevah around Mosul.
Many Iraqis who have fled ISIS now blame the United States and its coalition partners for abandoning Iraq to the spread of Islamic radicalism that has conquered the region.
Refugees said the American air strikes on IS positions outside Erbil were too little, too late. They said they felt abandoned by everyone – the central government in Baghdad, the Americans and British, who invaded in 2003, and now the Kurds, who had promised to protect them.
“When the Americans withdrew from Iraq they didn’t protect the Christians,” said Jenan Yousef, an Assyrian Catholic who fled Qaraqosh, Iraq’s largest Christian town, in the early hours of Thursday. “The Christians became the scapegoats. Everyone has been killing us.”
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