Turkmens, Yazidis flee fearing jihadist push

Turkmens, Yazidis flee fearing jihadist push

İpek Yezdani - ipek.yezdani@hurriyet.com.tr ISTANBUL
Turkmens, Yazidis flee fearing jihadist push

Iraqi Yazidi women who fled the violence in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar sit at a school where they are taking shelter in Dohuk. Jihadists ousted the Peshmerga troops of from Sinjar, forcing thousands of people to flee. AFP photo

Thousands of Yazidis and Turkmens are marooned in the Sinjar Mountain area without food and water after the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) captured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar following the retreat of the peshmerga.

“Thousands of people have taken shelter in the Tartar Valley on Sinjar Mountain. They have been waiting there for three days with thirst and hunger. There is no drinkable fresh water there, so they drink sour water. Turkmens have been dispersed and wiped out from the region, there is absolutely not a single Shiite Turkmen left in the region,” the vice chairman of the Tal Afar Iraqi Turkmen Front, Kasım Kara, told daily Hürriyet in a phone interview.   

Kara is one of the Turkmens who fled the ISIL violence first in Tal Afar and then in Sinjar. Thousands of Turkmens had fled to Sinjar after the militant group took over the control of Tal Afar, which was known as a Turkmen city before, on June 15. Thousands of them have now fled the violence in Sinjar after the town was captured by the jihadists over the weekend.

Kara said thousands of Yazidis and Turkmens were stuck on Sinjar Mountain. “They are in a very bad condition. Everybody has left their cars and escaped to the mountain by foot. Thousands of people have been staying inside the Tartar Valley now. There are some Yazidi villages there, but it is impossible for them to help all of these people. I cannot reach many Turkmen families. The ones that I could talk to said they haven’t received any fresh water and food for three days.  Children are dying because of the extreme heat. They all live in fear. ISIL will kill them all if they catch them,” Kara said.

Turkey should open its doors

The Turkmen official said ISIL killed 150 people, including Yazidis and Turkmens, after they captured Sinjar. “People who could escape, did escape. They [ISIL militants] killed the ones who were left behind in town. However, Turkmens and Yazidis who were able to run away are dying on the mountain now,” he added.

Kara made a call to Turkey to open its doors to Iraqi Turkmens, adding that Turkmens and Yazidis were waiting impatiently for any help from outside.

“The Turkish Republic cannot keep its doors closed to us anymore. We haven’t received any reply to our help calls until now, but now they have to protect us because there are no Turkmens left in this region,” he said, noting that there used to be 200,000 Turkmens alone in Tal Afar.

The former editor-in-chief of Iraqi Turkmen Radio in Mosul, Casim Muharrem, also said Turkmens who fled the mountains were in very poor condition. “Children are dying day by day. [On Aug. 5] they buried 10-15 children. The international community must extend urgent help to them,” he said.

Turkey steps up humanitarian aid

Meanwhile, Turkey has stepped up humanitarian assistance to an estimated 1.5 million people internally displaced by the violence in northern Iraq’s Kurdish region, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told Reuters. “We have sent thousands of tents as well as more than 200 trucks ... and there will be additional humanitarian assistance because in the Kurdish region, [Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud] Barzani told me they now have 1.5 million IDPs,” Davutoğlu said in an interview. “So this turmoil is really a threat to regional stability, not only to Turkey, to everybody,” he said, adding Turkey would take all necessary measures to keep stability around its borders.

Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay also said Turkey was setting up a new refugee camp for 20,000 Iraqi Turkmens near the northern Iraqi city of Duhok, noting they changed their earlier plans for a refugee camp in Sinjar due to security reasons.

The Union of Chamber and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) sent 25 humanitarian aid trucks for both people in the Gaza Strip and Iraqi Turkmens in neighboring Iraq, in coordination with Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Relief Agency (AFAD).

“They [AFAD] were going to set up a camp in the town of Sinjar, as most of the Turkmens have migrated there, but it is now a danger zone,” Atalay said, while speaking at the ceremony marking the departure of aid trucks to Iraq.