ISIS Tried to Kill Us: Things We Want You To Know
I went to Northern Iraq (no, really) to talk to the very people who narrowly fled being wiped out by ISIS. This is the fourth and final part of our series, Cracked Travels To The Front Lines Of the Battle Against ISIS, Christ Those People Are Assholes. (Click the link for this full, ground-breaking column.) http://goo.gl/Q40PX8
- •They Were Targeted For Genocide Due To A MisunderstandingOne Yazidi survivor who didn't flee to the mountains told me, "They separated women from men. They told the men, 'You have to say the Islamic state will last forever' ... Then they took women and girls ... I don't know where the men were taken." Mostly to unmarked mass graves; more than 5,000 Yazidi men and boys were executed by ISIS, while 7,000 women (girls, mostly) were taken into sexual slavery. Why? Misunderstandings over the Yazidi faith. ISIS believes them to be devil worshipers.
- •When ISIS Came, Their Defenders Abandoned ThemFor the last two years, the Peshmerga have been the only force in Iraq to consistently repel ISIS on the ground. They have a formidable reputation in the region, and the Yazidis I spoke with trusted that reputation. It's why they didn't run when ISIS began its advance. "We didn't know anything about ISIS, but we heard they attacked Mosul. We decided to stay in our village because there were Peshmerga forces there. But [when the fighting started], even the Peshmerga retreated."
- •They Found Out That ISIS Had Been All Around Them. As one refugee explained: "Those ISIS who attacked us, they were our neighbors. People who used to live with us. They were people inside our villages; people we used to live with together in peace. At the beginning, those people told us, 'Don't run away. It's fine. ISIS didn't do anything to us.' But when things happened, they started selling us to ISIS."
- •Bombing ISIS Won't WorkIf you carpet bomb "the shit" out of the Islamic State, you kill the people they're holding hostage too. ISIS isn't a uniformed army occupying an island fortress. They've taken over towns full of regular folks. Imagine, for instance, being a displaced Yazidi and hearing that American bombers came along and turned the whole region (as Ted Cruz suggested) into a radioactive wasteland. Sure, the members of ISIS in the region are dead. As are the female members of your family whom they kidnapped.
- •They Survived Thanks to A Combination Of American Airstrikes And Muslim CommunistsOn August 8, 2014, President Obama authorized the first U.S. airstrikes in Iraq in half a decade to stop advancing ISIS forces from taking the Kurdish capitol of Erbil or from reaching the Yazidis hiding on Mount Sinjar. The U.S. also sent food aid, which one survivor I spoke with considered a mixed success. ("Some helicopters brought food to the mountain, but when they dropped it, it exploded and got dirty and wasn't enough to eat.")
- •There Are Bitter Cultural Differences, Even Among AlliesOh, life in Kurdistan is certainly friendlier to the Yazidis than, say, life in ISIS-held territory, but they still face bigotry, and even violence. In one incident, the Yazidi and Arab Muslims in the camp clashed over use of the word "Shaytan" (Satan) in the call to prayer -- the call denounces Satan, while the Yazidis believe it's forbidden to even say the name out loud. "It was like a little riot in the camp," says a local pro-Yazidi activist.