Iraq Feature: 200+ Yazidis Freed by Islamic State

PHOTO: Kurdish peshmerga with one of the freed Yazidis (Reuters)

The Islamic State has freed more than 200 members of Iraq’s Yazidi community who had been held since last summer’s jihadist offensive.

The Yazidis, followers of a religion with elements of Islam and ancient Christianity, were freed on the frontline southwest of Kirkuk on Saturday. They were escorted by Kurdish peshmerga forces to a health centre on the highway to the Iraqi Kurdistan capital of Erbil.

The Islamic State’s conditions for the release are still unknown.

The hundreds of captives were held in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city which was taken by the Islamic State last June. Most were elderly, and some are wounded, disabled, or suffer from mental and psychological problems.

One elderly woman said she knew of more than 4,000 Yazidis who are still held by the Islamic State.

The jihadists seized the Yazidis as they advanced through northwest Iraq last August. Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled their homes, especially in and near the town of Sinjar, and were at risk on nearby Mount Sinjar before they were finally evacuated by Kurdish forces, assisted by US aerial intervention.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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