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Aid to Yazidis Sect


Home Conflict with ISIS > Humanitarian Aid to Yazidis Sect


The United States responded (perhaps too slowly) to the plight of an estimated 40,000 Yazidis who fled Sinjar, Iraq after the Islamic State fighters attacked and occupied the border town. Most fled towards Dohuk - a city in northern Iraq located in Kurdistan. However, some fled north to Sinjar Mountain. Sinjar Mountain is bleak, with no water, vegetation, or shade.

The Yazidis on the mountain suffered from lack of shelter, water, and food. Many died on the mountain. Many more died leaving the mountain when, trying to escape, they fell into the hands of the Islamic State fighters.

Airstrikes Against ISIL in Support of Yazidis Refugees. To keep the ISIL fighters at bay - preventing them from killing or capturing more Yazidis refugees - the U.S. conducted some limited air strikes in the Sinjar Mountain area. 1.

Airdrop of Food and Water by U.S. The United States responded by dropping food and water in a number of successive airdrops using C-17s and C-130s. Unfortunately the first few air drops missed the mark and did not land in areas accessible to the refugees 4.; instead falling into the hands of the Islamic State fighters.  Eventually some of the airdrops reached their destination. 2. The food being dropped by the aircraft are the "Meals Ready to Eat - Halal" or MREs. These MREs are acceptable meals for Muslims. 11. One of the lessons NOT learned by the Air Force from the Provide Comfort days is that pallets of water airdropped by parachute tend to break up and the water bottles burst. One reason why the Army pushed the air to discontinue the fixed-wing airdrops in favor of aid delivered by helicopter.

Other Country Contributions. The Royal Air Force (UK) is reported 3. to have dropped relief supplies of food, water, and solar panels for recharging cell phones on Sinjar Mountain.

How and Why Did Sinjar Fall So Quickly? There are a lot of unanswered questions about the Peshmerga's lack of zeal in trying to protect Sinjar and the ramifications of the quick withdrawal by the Kurds. Despite promises by the KRG that Sinjar was safe and an evacuation was not necessary, ISIL took the town almost without a fight and commenced to killing Yazidis men and enslaving Yazidis women. It appears that the Peshmerga force protecting Sinjar was not equipped with the proper weapons, were short on ammunition, and the strength of the force was minimal. In addition, the Kurds likely saw the Yazidis as "not Kurds" - and this could have affected their desire to fend off ISIL. According to some reports the Peshmerga stole away in the middle of the night without warning the Yazidis population. 13. The KRG most likely had more confidence in their Peshmerga and were not quite aware of the threat to Sinjar. Supposedly the Kurd leadership is mounting an investigation into the lack of defense for Sinjar. 14. The Yazidis do speak favorably about the Syrian Kurds who came to their rescue forming an escape corridor from the mountain to Kurd-controlled Syria.

Syrian Kurds Help Save Yazidis. Syrian Kurdish fighters crossed the Syrian-Iraq border to come to the rescue of the thousands of Yazidis stranded on Mount Sinjar. They established a "land corridor" which the Yazidis could walk through to reach safety across the border in Syria. Once inside Syria they were brought to a hospital, settled into a temporary refugee camp where they received first aid, food, and water, or transported back across the border into Iraq so they can reach destinations in Kurdistan (Iraq). Most refugees were brought to the Syrian Kurdish town of Malikiya located 20 miles from the Iraqi border. In the midst of the Syrian conflict the Syrian Kurds have established a temporary area of self-rule in the northeastern corner of Syria.

Syrian Kurds a Major Factor in Rescue of the Yazidis. The humanitarian drops of food and water by the U.S. and Britain - along with the air strikes against ISIL in the vicinity of Sinjar Mountain were important. However, the major factor was the movement of Syrian Kurd fighters from across the border into Iraq to take on ISIL on the ground and establising a land corridor for the evacation of the Yazidis off Sinjar Mountain. 15.

Who are the Syrian Kurds? The Kurdish militias (also called "Local Self Defense Forces) that established the escape corridors for some of the Yazidis are a mix of militia groups; 10. but primarily from across the border in the area of northeastern Syria. One of the militia groups is known as the YPG - the armed wing of the Syrian Kurdish PYD party (associated with the PKK). 8.


Yazidis Crisis Resolved?

On August 13 the U.S. stated that the Yazidis crisis was over. The trigger for this conclusion was a visit to the top of Mount Sinjar where military and USAID observers noted there were about 4,000 refugees but they had adequate supplies of food and water. President Obama stated that there was no need for a military operation to evacuate the refugees off the moutain.


Mission Accomplished?
However, immediately after the press releases from the U.S. about the Yazidis crisis being over, humanitarian organizations and spokespersons for the Yazidis said the crisis is still critical; saying that while the U.S. assessment team visited the top of Mount Sinjar there were still thousands stranded on the southern slope of the Sinjar Mountain range that need assistance. 12. Is this a case of "Mission Accomplished" announced too soon?


Timeline for Humanitarian Aid

August 2, 2014. The Yazidis start to flee the Islamic State fighters - leaving their homes in Sinjar and outlying villages. Many fled to Dohuk and Zakho while others went to seek refuge atop Mount Sinjar.

August 7, 2014. Syrian Kurds crossed the border and established a "safe passage" corridor for the Yazidis to flee Sinjar Mountain to a temporary refugee camp in Kurdish ruled Syria.

August 10, 2014. The U.S. conducted its fourth airdrop of food and water on Mount Sinar, Iraq. The airdrop was done by one C-17 and three C-130 cargo aircraft that dropped a total of 88 bundles of supplies. The C-17 dropped 40 container delivery system bundles of fresh drinking water (3,804 gallons) and the C-130s dropped 48 bundles (22,488 meals and 590 gallons of water). 5.

August 11, 2014. The U.S. conducted a fifth airdrop of food and water on Mount Sinjar. One C-17 and three C-130s conducted the drop (76 bundles of supplies). 6.

Riggers preparing aid bundles for airdrop to Yazidis on Sinjar Mountain, Iraq
Parachute riggers preparing bundles of water for airdrop onto Sinjar Mountain
USAF Photo by Staff Sgt Jeremy Bowcock

August 13, 2014. A group of 20 Special Forces troops landed on top of Sinjar Mountain to assess the situation of the remaining Yazidis remaining. The troops determined that the displaced persons have plenty of food and water (as a result of U.S. and British airdrops). Some several thousand refugees remain - down from approximately 50,000 from a week ago. 9. The SF troops were transported via V-22 Osprey aircraft.

Sinjar Retaken from ISIS. In November 2015 an alliance of Kurdish factions resulted in recapturing ISIL-held territory in Nineveh province - including Sinjar. The temporary alliance consisted of the KRG's Peshmerga, Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), the Syrian Popular Protection Unit (YPG), and Yazidi militias (YBS). 16.  


News Stories about the Yazidis of Iraq

Read news stories on the Yazidis of Iraq

 



Endnotes

1. See U.S. Aircraft Conduct Targeted Airstrike in Northern Iraq, U.S. Department of Defense, August 8, 2014 at this link.

2. For more on the humanitarian mission of 7 Aug 14 see Background Information on the Humanitarian Assistance Operation Near Sinjar, Iraq, DoD, August 2014.
www.defense.gov/pubs/140808_HumanitarianAssistance_Update.pdf

3. For more on United Kingdom airdrops see "RAF planes make second aid drop in northern Iraq", BBC News UK, August 12, 2014 at this link.

4. Some news reports state that the air drops missed the refugees on top of Sinjar Mountain. In fact, a video released by CENTCOM and posted on YouTube seems to show parachutes landing in a populated area - not on the top (or even side) of Sinjar Mountain - view the video at this link below. (Note: I have flown over and around Sinjar Mountain - it is really hard to miss!
www.youtube.com/watch?v=TADVFT31a1I

5. For info on 10 Aug 14 airdrop see Update on Humanitarian Assistance Operations Near Sinjar, Iraq, U.S. Central Command News Release, August 10, 2014 at this link.

6. For info on 11 Aug 14 airdrop see Update on Humanitarian Assistance Operations Near Sinjar, Iraq, U.S. Central Command News Release, August 11, 2014 at this link.

7. Some estimates of the stranded Yazidis on Mount Sinjar ranged to 50,000. See "Syrian Kurdish fighters rescue stranded Yazidis", Stars and Stripes, August 12, 2014 at this link.

8. For more on the Syrian Kurd militia group that assisted the Yazidis see "A U.S.-designated terrorist group is saving Yazidis and battling the Islamic State", The Washington Post, August 11, 2014 at this link.

9. For more on the Special Forces visit to Sinjar Mountain see "After US troops' assessment mission, rescue on Sinjar far less likely", Stars and Stripes, August 13, 2014 at this link.

10. For more on Syrian Kurds see U.S. airstrikes helped, but Kurds from Syria turned tide against Islamic State, McClatchy News, August 11, 2014 at this link.

11. For more on the Halal MREs see What's in the Boxes of Aid Being Dropped Into Iraq?, National Journal, August 13, 2014 at this link.

12. For more on statements by humanitarian organizations about the continued Yazidis crisis see "Despite U.S. Claims, Yazidis Say Crisis is Not Over", The New York Times, August 14, 2014 at this link.

13. See "How the U.S.-favored Kurds abandoned the Yazidis when ISIS Attacked", The Daily Beast, August 17, 2014 at this link.

14. For more on the KRG investigation into the lack of defense by Peshmerga for Sinjar see Massoud Barzani to investigate Peshmerga military commanders over failure to protect Kurdistan, Kurdnetnet Daily Online News, August 6, 2014 at this link.

15. The YPG's rescue efforts were a major factor in the survival of some of the Yazidis. See Rescued from Mount Sinjar, Iraq Oil Report, August 19, 2014 at this link.

16. For more on the recapture of Sinjar from ISIL read Battle for Sinjar, Iraq, TRADOC G-2 ACE Threats Integration, April 2016 posted on publicintelligence.net at this link.

 

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