Brief Report on the Genocide of Yezidis and Assyrian Christians
This report summarizes atrocities, ethnic cleansing and genocide of Assyrian Christians and Yezidis during the past year as well as during past centuries. See the “News and Resources” tab on this website for additional information and updates.
3 July 2015
Outreach to Muslims and all the minorities
We send greetings and prayers for the wellbeing of peace loving Muslims around the world. We pray for the millions of Muslim refugees who have been victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity. We also pray for all of the other minorities who have been victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and in particular, for Christians who have now been targeted en masse for death and the destruction of their civilization.
Assyrian Christians – Background
In this report, “Assyrian” and “Assyrian Christian” refer to Christians who are ethnically indigenous to the Mesopotamian Region and identify as Assyrian or Chaldean or Chaldo-Assyrian. Assyrian Christians are the oldest continuous Christian community in the world and consist of the Chaldean Order of the Roman Catholic Church; the Holy Apostolic and Catholic Church of the East and of the Assyrians; and the Syriac Church.
Between the 1870’s and the end of World War I, over 700,000 Assyrian Christians living under the Ottoman Empire were tortured and murdered or forced to convert. Men, women and children were forced to walk on death marches where they were beaten or shot for stopping. Many were murdered on the death marches and many others literally marched until they died of starvation, thirst or disease. Countless Assyrian Christian women were raped, gang raped, forced to convert and/or forced to marry. There was also forced conversion of children.
In 1933, 6500 Assyrian women, children and unarmed elders were massacred at the hands of the Iraqi government in the Simele Massacre. Assyrians were also slaughtered during the Anfal Campaign, known as Kurdish Genocide.
Between 1990 and July 2014, the Assyrian Christian population of Iraq was reduced from between 1.4 and 1.5 million to 400,000 through harassment, threat, extortion, torture and murder. Al Qaida and other operatives murdered Assyrian Christians one at a time or in small numbers. They beheaded numerous Assyrian Christian clerics. Operatives would give an ultimatum to an Assyrian to convert or be killed. When the person did not convert, s/he was murdered. One Assyrian man refused to convert, he was beheaded, his beheading was videotaped, and the videotape was shown in Mosul Province to shock and horrify local Assyrian residents to encourage them to flee.
Sometimes al Qaida and other operatives would threaten Assyrians to extort sums of money. Victims were expected to make the payment and after they did, they were expected to pay again and again. Those in a financial position to make the payments would often do so in tandem with fleeing the area or the country. Harassment also took place at checkpoints run by al Qaida, Iraqi government officials and others. Checkpoints would suddenly appear in new places without warning so it was impossible to avoid them. In the wake of this subtle secret terrorism, between hundreds of thousands and 1.5 million Assyrian Christians left Iraq and immigrated to Syria or the west; an unknown number were murdered.
Assyrian Christians – present genocide
In July 2014, so-called-Daesh required Assyrian Christians to place the Arabic letter nun on their homes to single them out as Christians. Then they were issued ultimatums to convert, pay a religion tax, leave their homes or be killed. Over 200,000 Assyrian Christians were forced from their homes and communities. Hundreds of Assyrians were slaughtered. In addition, hundreds of Assyrian women were taken in chains, forced to convert, wear full hijab and marry or become concubines. Hundreds of Assyrian women have also been enslaved as sex slaves.
In July or August 2014, an Assyrian man received a desperate telephone call from his sister, informing him that she was being held in a prison with hundreds of other women. “Bomb us!” she implored. “Bomb us! Or get us out of here!” The plea to “bomb us!” has also been heard by Yezidis receiving phone calls from women and girls being brutalized, raped and sexually enslaved.
Over 200,000 Assyrian Christians escaping so-call-ISIL received occasional humanitarian assistance and other help during their flight. However, they were not offered refugee camps and they are not provided with ongoing humanitarian aid by the Iraqi government, the KRG or humanitarian NGO’s in the area. One Assyrian community were, in fact, offered a camp far from anyone they knew and far from the opportunity to find employment. Because of the atrocities experienced by Assyrian Christians in Iraq and the KRG between 1991 and 2014, this small community of Assyrian refugees was afraid to trust that their government would provide for their humanitarian needs without them having to work, so they declined the offer of the refugee camp.
From July and August 2014 until July 2015, Assyrian Christian refugees of Northern Iraq and the KRG are housed and aided by the Assyrian Christian community in Iraq and the Diaspora, including through grants. Presently over half of Iraqi and KRG Assyrian Christian refugees are in Iraq or the KRG. The rest are in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. The refugees in these other countries are also not receiving humanitarian aid from local aid organizations. This situation is not sustainable.
During Ramadan 2015, Assyrians have been receiving anonymous calls on their cell phones saying something like: “We know who you are. We know where you and we are going to come after you and your people!” The caller sometimes states another country outside Iraq where that particular Assyrian has relatives. The caller also sometimes gives a time frame, such as, “you need to get out! If you’re still here in 24 hours, we’re going to kill you!”
These anonymous calls repeat the pattern of terrorism against Assyrian Christians between 1991 and July 2014. These same types of calls were received between 10 and 18 June 2014, following which, over 200,000 Assyrian Christians were forced from their homes and remain refugees until this day in addition to hundreds being slaughtered and other hundreds of women forced into sexual slavery or forced to convert and marry or become concubines.
In July 2015, a Kurdish group also issued a video tearing and burning the Assyrian flag and declaring jihad against Assyrian Christians. Also during July 2015, so-called-ISIL declared its intention to destroy Christian civilizations, burn their homes and farms, kill men, women and child captives and raise the flag of Islam over Rome.
Yezidis – Background
Yezidis are indigenous to Northern Iraq and have their own unique religion and culture. There are 600,000 to 800,000 Yezidis worldwide. Yezidis are monotheists and their religious teachings are oral. They have a flood story, they believe in Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. They circumcise their males and they have a water immersion ritual. Yezidis believe in seven archangels, including Tawsi Melek, the peacock angel, whom Christians associate with Lucifer and Muslims with Shaitan. Yezidis also believe in reincarnation and have a caste system.
From the beginning of the 15th century to the end of the Ottoman Empire in the 20th century, the Yezidi world population was reduced from 24 million to around 1 million through approximately 70 farman (meaning “decree” in Turkish) issued by Turkish, Kurdish and Arab Pashas, who had Yezidis tortured and slaughtered or forced to convert. Yezidis also suffered persecution during Saddam Hussein’s Anfal Campaign, also known as the Kurdish Genocide
Yezidis were persecuted as devil worshippers, for not having a holy book, because the word “Yezidi” sounds similar to the name of Yazid ibn Muawiya—a 7th century Muslim Caliph who caused the beheading of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, or just because they’re different.
Yezidis were also slaughtered during the Iraqi Anfal Campaign, known as Kurdish Genocide. Then in 2007, 700 Yezidis were killed in a series of truck bombs in the Yezidi villages of Qahataniyah and al Jazeer.
During the summer of 2014, Yezidis were once again targeted for annihilation. So-called-Daesh gave Yezidis an ultimatum to convert or be killed and asked Yezidi militias to turn over their weapons. Before Yezidi militias could decide what to do, Kurdish forces confiscated Yezidi weapons, stating that they needed the weapons to defend the Yezidis. KRG and other Kurdish forces insist they tried to protect the Yezidis, but eyewitness testimony contests this. Regardless of the intention, Kurdish forces failed to defend the Yezidis.
Over 420,000 Yezidis were forced from their homes in August 2014. Subsequently, many Yezidi homes, schools and public buildings were demolished and reduced to rubble. Over 375,000 Yezidis live in refugee camps in Northern Iraq and the KRG, 23,000 are in camps in Turkey and 7,000 to 11,000 in Syria. Some camps in Northern Iraq and the KRG did not receive food assistance for over two months. At least one camp did not receive water and residents dug a well to avoid dehydration.
Yezidis – Present Genocide
Beginning in August 2014, over 2,000 Yezidi boys were kidnapped, forced to convert and train as child soldiers. Over 10,000 Yezidi men and boys were brutally murdered, including men being beheaded before the eyes of their wives and children. In late April 2015, hundreds of Yezidi men and boys were massacred; and there was a massacre of hundreds of Yezidi men, women, children and elderly. Bodies of the dead have been desecrated. After one massacre, the bodies were thrown down a well.
Hundreds of Yezidi families, representing thousands of Yezidis were kidnapped and are horrifically brutalized. At one point, a number of Yezidis escaped detention and in retaliation, so-called-ISIL broke the bones of other Yezidis, tied them to vehicles and paraded them. During Ramadan (June-July 2015), so-called-ISIL ordered all Yezidis in captivity to fast and pray five times a day or face punishment.
Over 7,000 women and girls were kidnapped and brutally enslaved as sex slaves. There are reports of rape, gang rape, being examined naked in slave bazaars, shipped naked, beaten and tortured by their rapists and forced into prostitution. Yezidi teens and young adults have been required to undergo virginity surgeries up to 20 times as they are sold and resold to new owners. Some sex slaves are required to recite verses of Qur’an while raped, one slave owner poured boiling water on the leg of his slave for refusing sex and there was a public immolation of a Yezidi teenager for refusing extreme sex. Even death is denied to sex slaves except at the hands of their owners; so-called-ISIL instituted a policy forbidding sex slaves from wearing scarves because scarves had been used by some slaves to commit suicide.
During a forced march up Mount Sinjar in August 2014, Yezidi women and children—many of whom had just witnessed the murder of the men and older boys in their family—were forced to keep up a fast pace or be slaughtered. Some women were holding two small children. When they couldn’t keep up the pace, they put down a toddler to walk beside them and so-called-ISIL forces immediately murdered the toddler.
During Ramadan, so-called-ISIL has also been running competitions to encourage their troops to memorize verses of Qur’an. Prizes include Yezidi sex slaves and cash. In addition, Yezidi IDPs in refugees in Northern Iraq and the KRG are receiving anonymous death threats on their cell phones saying something like: “We know who you are. We know where you are. We will celebrate the end of Ramadan and Eid al Fitr in Dohuk and we’re coming for you and all the Yezidis!”
These are the very same types of threats that Yezidis received on their cell phones in 2014 just before 420,000 Yezidis were forced from their homes and suffered the ensued atrocities.
Yezidis in Europe are worried that so-called-ISIL will begin attacking Yezidi refugees in Turkey as well as in Iraq and the KRG and have pressured Yezidi loved ones to leave Turkey for the EU. Yezidis approached a representative of the Bulgarian government in Turkey and they have appealed to the United Nations and the International Organization on Migration. With no help in sight from these agencies, on 26 June 2015, Yezidi leaders rented 30 rented to drive Yezidis refugees to the Bulgarian border. Turkish police intervened, taking some Yezidis into custody, stranding others and taking many Yezidis back to the refugee camps. Turkish and Kurdish authorities in the camps informed refugees that they must stay in camp or return to Iraq. This is certainly logical. However because of the terrorism that the refugees suffered in the past, and are suffering now through messages that so-called-ISIL will come to get them in Turkey, requiring the refugees to stay in camp is terrifying them.
Over 620,000 Assyrian Christians and Yezidis have been forced from their homes in the Nineveh Plain, the Sinjar Region and Mosul, all of which are oil rich. Oil may be a key reason for the competition between the Republic of Iraq, the KRG and so-called-ISIL for control of these areas.
In February, the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution targeting funding sources for so-called-ISIL. On 30 June 2015, a news article reported that the Russian FSB (intelligence agency) issued a list of supporters of so-called-ISIL. KRG President Massoud Barzani and former Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi are on the FSB list. If this is true—or even partially true—it appears that so-called-ISIL is supported within the KRG and was—and perhaps still is—supported within the Iraq central government. Turkey—where tens of thousands of Assyrians and Yezidis from Iraq and the KRG are taking refuge—and Jordan where 3,500 Assyrian families are taking refuge—are also named in the report. Kurds and others in the region have been accusing Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of sympathizing with so-called-ISIL, or at least allowing them to cross the Turkish border into Syria to attack Kurds and others. Turkey was blamed for providing border crossing access for car bombs and other attached on Kurds, Christians and others in Kobane, Syria.
Confiscation and Demolition of Property
Kurds have been confiscating Assyrian land in Northern Iraq and the KRG since at least 2006. During the past year, Assyrian leaders have received photographs documenting some of the confiscation of Assyrian homes and adjacent land that were abandoned by Assyrians forced to flee by so-called-Daesh in July 2014. We recently heard about a Kurdish bulldozer was caught on film moving a fence that protected Assyrian property.
Yezidi homes, schools and community buildings have been demolished and reduced to rubble in many Yezidi villages. Due to the forced resettlement of minorities by the Iraqi government under President Saddam Hussein, and more recently under the KRG, many Kurds live in Yezidi villages. When so-called-ISIL entered these villages in August 2014, everyone was forced out and required to appear before so-called-ISIL personnel one on one or in families. So-called-ISIL separated Kurds from Yezidis and instructed Kurds to return home.
We are concerned that Yezidi land is being confiscated by Kurds just as Assyrian land has been confiscated. Unfortunately, the Yezidis have no one to investigate these matters at this time and it is not safe for Yezidi refugees to do so themselves.
There has also been demolition of Yezidi and Assyrian shrines and artifacts in Iraq and the KRG. These types of demolitions extend far beyond Yezidi and Assyrian treasures and include every part of Iraqi culture. So-called-ISIL are bombing cultural and religious shrines and artifacts and are also engaged in laborious destruction with hand held machinery in museums, excavations and at other sites. On 28 May 2015, the United Nations General Assembly issued a call for an immediate halt to the wanton destruction of Iraq’s cultural heritage.
Yezidis and Assyrians have also had their personal possessions confiscated at checkpoints and elsewhere and there are reports of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls at checkpoints.
The Assyrian Christian population in Syria is reported to be between 900,000 and 1,200,000 as of 2015. We believe that approximately 250,000 Assyrian Christians emigrated from Iraq to Syria between 1991 and 2006. An unknown number of additional Christian relocated from Iraq to Syrian between 2006 and the start of the Syrian civil war. Assyrian Christians in Syria are facing genocide, together with other minorities. Hundreds of Assyrians, including over 50 children are being held hostage by so-called-Daesh. Ransom requests rose as high as $23 million. When the Assyrian church in Australia was not able to raise sufficient funds, so-called-ISIL refused to continue the negotiations and announced that the hostages will stand trial in Shariyah court.
Hundreds of Assyrian women are also in forced marriages or concubine relationships or are sex slaves. On 30 June 2015, two women were beheaded in Syria near the Iraqi border. This appears to be the first beheadings of women by so-called-ISIL. The ethnicity of the women was not apparent from the report.
As stated in the Assyrian section above, on 3 July 2015, Kurdish group declared jihad against Assyrians. In addition, so-called-ISIL declared its intention destroy all Christian civilizations and kill all men, women and child captives.
The Role of the Republic of Iraq and the KRG
On 18 November 2014, the General Secretariat for the Council of Ministers of Iraq voted to recognize that all the components of the Iraqi nation, including Yezidis, Turkmen, Christians, Shabbaks and all others who are part of the Iraqi people are facing a collective Genocide due to the acts of the terrorist gangs of so-called-Daesh.
Due to tensions and stress between the Republic of Iraq and the KRG, Iraqi forces and personnel may not, or do not, enter Northern Iraq or the KRG, except with occasional special permission, such as when Iraq’s President al Abadi recently visited Irbil. To complicate matters, NGO’s and other organizations approved by the Iraq central government to operate within its border, may not enter Northern Iraq, nor the KRG, without the express permission of the KRG. It is, therefore, impossible for the Iraq central government to protect Yezidis and Assyrian Christians in Northern Iraq and the KRG or to provide them with humanitarian aid.
There are reports of Yezidis being taken into custody by Kurdish authorities and beaten and/or tortured and/or murdered, including by beheading. Tens of Yezidis remain in Kurdish custody after being arrested during a demonstration held in a refugee camp in solidarity with Yezidis demonstrating in Brussels. Many Yezidis prisoners have never been heard from again. Others, including women and men, have been released after sustaining horrific wounds from brutal beatings and the breaking of their bones. We fear for their lives, and we are, therefore, not including photos in this report.
Survivors of sexual violence have also reported being raped by Kurds while in the captivity of so-called-ISIL.
Large numbers of Kurds live in Turkey, Syria and the KRG. Kurds are both suffering or inflicting suffering. There are reports of so-called-ISIL torturing and slaughtering Kurds. We are starting to see reports of Kurds torturing Christians. This, coupled with the Kurdish group declaring jihad against Assyrian Christians in July 2015 engenders grave concern for the survival of Assyrian Christians in the region.
Russia’s FSB report stating that KRG President Barzani and former Iraq Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi supports so-called-ISIL provides a somber backdrop against which to contemplate the implications of the above-described atrocities perpetrated by Kurds, and the complexities of the Iraq central government in its own country vis-a-vis the KRG.
In view of the following realities:
- There is an ongoing genocide being perpetrated against Yezidis and Assyrian Christians by co-called-ISIL;
- Yezidis and Assyrians in Iraq and the KRG are presently receiving anonymous death threats on their cell phones;
- Last year’s anonymous death threats led to 620,000 Yezidis and Assyrian Christians being forced from their homes, and they continuing to live as refugees in their homeland or in neighboring countries; and over 11,000 were slaughtered including by beheading before the eyes of family members and 1000 children died of dehydration; and over 7,000 remain enslaved in brutal sex slavery or forced marriage or concubine relationships and 2000 were forced to convert and are serving as child soldiers; and countless thousands are being brutalized in detention in;
- Some Yezidis are already not receiving adequate food and water in the refugee camps;
- A Kurdish group has declared jihad against Assyrians;
- Stated intention of so-called-ISIL on 3 July 2015 to destroy Christian civilizations, kill men, women and child captives and raise the so-called-ISIL flag in those realms;
- A Russian FSB report implicates the KRG President and former Iraq Vice President as well as the nations of Turkey and Jordan being involved in support of so-called-ISIL:
- Iraq central government forces and personnel may not or do not enter Northern Iraq due to the tension stresses with the KRG; and
- the KRG was unable to defend and protect Yezidis and Assyrians from the atrocities perpetrated against them in July and August 2014 by so-called-ISIL;
we believe it is imperative that the international community create a zone of protection enforced by an international protection force to protect the remnant of Yezidis and Assyrian Christians in Northern Iraq and the KRG. We also hope that such a protection zone and force will also curb atrocities against Shi’a Muslim Shabbaks and Shi’a Muslim Turkmen also being persecuted by so-called-ISIL in Northern Iraq and the KRG.
 “Who are the Chaldeans” by Dr. Ghassan Hanna Shathaya. 1999. <http://www.chaldeansonline.org/chald.html>
 Nun is the first letter of Nasara, meaning Christian or Nazarene.
 “Iraqi Christians flee after Isis issue Mosul ultimatum” BBC News. 18 July 2014. <http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28381455>
 See <http://www.yezidihumanrights.org/yezidi-genocide.php> for an overview of attacks from 637 to 1917 and <https://www.yezidis- assyrians.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Yezidi-Timeline-1805-to-2014.pdf> from 1805 to 2014.
 These figures are changing constantly. Iraqi Member of Parliament Vian Dakhil issued an announcement that 3,000 Yezidis are leaving Iraq. <http://ekurd.net/over-3000-yazidi-kurds-leave-iraq-monthly-vian-dakhil-2015-06-24> We have also heard reports from Yezidi refugees in Turkey that more Yezidis are crossing the border to take refuge there.
 IDP–indigenous displaced person—is a person who is a refugee in his or her own homeland.
 “Security Council approves resolution targeting sources of financing for ISIL.” UN News Centre. 12 February 2015. <http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=50067#.VXUJWWAf_ao>
 <http://www.akhbaar.org/home/2015/6/193662.html>; Google translator English is available at <https://www.yezidis-assyrians.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Russian-FSB-Security-Service-report-on-support-for-Daesh.pdf>
 In the “Syrian Demographics” section of Syria Population 2015 at <http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/syria-population/>, it states, “The largest ethnic group (approximately 90%) in Syria is Arab, mostly classified as Levantine. Other major groups in Syria are Kurds (2 million), Syrian Turkmen (0.75-1.5 million) and Assyrians (0.9 to 1.2 million).”
 “RIGHTS: Assyrians Face Escalating Abuses in “New Iraq.” By Lisa Söderlindh. Inter Press Service. 3 May 2006. <http://www.ipsnews.net/2006/05/rights-assyrians-face-escalating-abuses-in-new-iraq/>
 Arabic original: <https://www.yezidis-assyrians.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Original-Arabic-Genocide-Declaration-by-Council-of-Ministers-Republic-of-Iraq-18-Nov-2014.jpg.pdf>; English translation: < https://www.yezidis-assyrians.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Translation-of-Genocide-Declaration-by-Council-of-Ministers-Republic-of-Iraq-18-Nov-2014.pdf>
 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/islamic-state/11207296/Isil-tortured-and-abused-150-Kurdish-boys.html> and <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11697764/Isil-reenters-key-Syria-border-town-of-Kobane-live.html>
 New Russian security service report lists al-Hashemi and Barzani as supporter of Daesh. https://www.yezidis-assyrians.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Russian-FSB-Security-Service-report-on-support-for-Daesh.pdf The English translation below the Arabic is from Google translator. A professional translation is being prepared.
 This is in addition to the approximate 1200 who have escaped or been ransomed from sexual slavery.