IRAQ

Exclusive: Kurdish forces fight to protect Yazidis fleeing IS

Ahmad al-Rubaye, AFP | An Iraqi Yazidi woman fleeing from Islamists in northern Iraq,

Kurdish guerrillas represent the last remaining hope for the Yazidi minority against jihadist forces storming northern Iraq. France 24 reports near Mount Sinjar, where refugees spoke of kidnappings and rape at the hands of the Islamists.

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The United States and Britain appear poised to step up military operations in Iraq this month, in part to protect the country’s vulnerable Yazidis and Christian minorities from the Islamic State, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

However, poorly-equipped Kurdish guerrillas from neighbouring Turkey and Syria are currently the only forces on the ground offering a measure of protection to Yazidis, many of whom have joined a desperate exodus from conflict-torn region.

“They want to rape us. They kidnap the girls and women and kill the men, so we decided to flee,” one refugee told FRANCE 24 from the back of a pick-up truck. The vehicle was part of a humanitarian corridor that has been opened up by Kurdish fighters in a hard-fought victory.

A Kurdish military chief commanding a hilltop position on Mount Sinjar told FRANCE 24 that Yazidis, who practice an ancient religion that integrates aspects of Islam and Christianity and other belief systems, face death by the Sunni extremists if they do not convert.

Meanwhile, despite IS’s campaign of terror, some Yazidis are bravely refusing to be driven out of their ancestoral homes in northern Iraq.

To watch France 24’s full video report from Sinjar, click on the player above.

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