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Iraq MP pleads for help to rescue Yazidis

© AFP/File / by Salam Faraj | Iraqi Yazidi women who fled the violence in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, sit at a school where they are taking shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohuk in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region on August 5, 2014Iraqi Yazidi women who fled the violence in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, sit at a school where they are taking shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohuk in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region on August 5, 2014

Displaced Iraqis, many from the Yazidi minority, have been stranded in a jihadist-hemmed mountain for a week and will die en masse if not rescued urgently, an MP said Saturday.

"We have one or two days left to help these people. After that they will start dying en masse," Yazidi parliamentarian Vian Dakhil told AFP.

"If we cannot give them hope now -- the (Kurdish) peshmerga, the United Nations, the government, anybody -- their morale will collapse completely and they will die," she warned.

Thousands of Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking minority following an ancient faith rooted in Zoroastrianism, fled their homes a week ago when Islamic State (IS) militants attacked the town of Sinjar.

Many have since been stranded in the nearby mountain range, with no food and water in searing temperatures.

The Yazidis, dubbed "devil worshippers" by IS militants because of their unorthodox blend of beliefs and practices, are a small and closed community, one of Iraq's most vulnerable minorities.

US President Barack Obama sent warplanes back over Iraq for the first time in three years this week in part to avert what he said was a possible impending genocide.

American cargo planes have been dropping supplies on the Sinjar mountain to help the displaced, who have survived by hiding in old cave dwellings, seeking out natural springs and hunting small animals.

"The thousands -- perhaps tens of thousands -- of Iraqi men, women and children who fled to that mountain were starving and dying of thirst. The food and water we airdropped will help them survive," Obama said Saturday in his weekly address.

- 'US should bomb Sinjar' -

However Dakhil said the aid could not reach all of the people scattered across Mount Sinjar, a barren range stretching for around 60 kilometres (35 miles) near the border with Syria.

"The US should strike Sinjar, even if there are civilian casualties. It's better than letting everyone die," she said.

"Government helicopters have been evacuating some people but the process is too slow -- we need a faster solution."

Dakhil broke down in tears during a parliament session earlier this week when she described the plight of Yazidis and other religious minorities displaced by the jihadist onslaught on Sinjar.

Her appeal for international help to save a religion "being wiped off the face of the earth" triggered an outpouring of sympathy.

Dakhil told AFP of one Yazidi woman she spoke to on Saturday who had found herself trapped in the mountain with her five children.

"One child has already died. Another was dying so she decided to leave them behind and walk across the mountain to look for a helicopter. She could try to save three of her children or watch all five die," she said.

Temperatures in Iraq can often reach 50 degrees Celsius (120 Fahrenheit) in the summer, and some displaced people have ventured out of the ragged Sinjar hills, realising they would not survive.

According to some of those contacted by AFP over the past few days, they have experienced mixed fortunes.

- Sunstroke, dehydration and trauma -

Some have made their own way to neighbouring Syria and Turkey, others were caught and killed by IS fighters and others backtracked to the mountain.

Kurdish fighters from Syria and Turkey have opened safe passages to evacuate some of them, but tens of thousands are still thought to be stranded in the Sinjar mountain's lunar landscapes.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is providing emergency care to around 4,000 of them who crossed safely into northeastern Syria.

"They suffer from dehydration, sunstroke and some of them are seriously traumatised," the IRC's Suzanna Tkalec told AFP, adding that many of them had walked all day for several days.

She said previous air drops by the government "had not always been successful... some water bags just exploded" on impact.

There have also been several reports over the past week alleging that hundreds of Yazidi girls and women were abducted by IS fighters, to be used as servants, sex slaves or human shields.

"There are now 520 or 530 women held at Badush prison in Mosul," Dakhil claimed.

"Daash (Islamic State) militants come every day to select a few and take them away. The militants say they are taking them to 'paradise'. We don't know what they do with them," she said.

The group had very limited means of communicating with the outside world, she said.

AFP could not immediately verify information concerning the fate of missing Yazidi women allegedly held in Mosul and other IS-held areas where independent reporting is impossible.

by Salam Faraj