Yazidis facing health troubles in exile
Gülden AYDIN ZAKHO
REUTERS PhotoIraqi Yazidis who have fled from Islamist brutality are facing health problems in the Iraqi villages in which they have sought shelter, with 22 people reportedly dying of health-related complaints in the past 10 days.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants are carrying out attacks against minorities in Iraq’s Nineveh province, prompting tens of thousands of people to flee.
Despite intensified efforts by the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and international communities to help the Yazidis, the minority is now staring a new problem in the face.
Temperatures hovering around 50 degrees, coupled with dirty water and non-hygienic conditions, are threatening the lives of Yazidis living in villages of Zakho in Kurdish northern Iraq.
Around 13,700 Yazidis and 2,000 Christians have taken shelter in Zakho’s Derebun village, where only 250 Yazidis and 200 Christians used to live, since Aug. 3.
Over the past 10 days 22 Yazidis have passed away and Yazidi Sheikh Kadir Semir suggests that long travel and a lack of clean water are to blame.
Children have especially been exhibiting serious symptoms, suffering from stomach aches, diarrhea and vomiting.
According to Semir, three of the victims were children, three of them were aged 15, while the remaining 16 were over 50.
All of the victims were men, as few women successfully reached the villages after being abducted by militants to be used as sex slaves or sold into other forms of slavery.
The sheikh also said suicide was on the rise among youth after the tragedies that have befallen the community, noting that two men in Derebun killed themselves after militants raped and sold their wives. Others, both men and women, have responded to the plight of their community by joining organizations like the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or the People’s Defense Forces (YPG) in Rojava in a bid to fight back against ISIL.
Jihadist-led insurgents launched a major offensive in June that began in Nineveh and swept security forces aside, overrunning large areas of five provinces.
In one of the most dramatic chapters of the conflict, the militants stormed the Sinjar area of northwestern Iraq earlier this month, prompting tens of thousands of people, many of them Yazidis, to take refuge in the mountains.
Fighters from the YPG, PKK and peshmerga on the ground and air strikes eventually helped most of those trapped to escape after more than 10 days under siege, but some remain in the mountains with almost no food or water.