In the past five days tens of thousands of Yezidi Kurds have been stuck on a mountain in northwestern Iraq. They are all civilians from the town of Shingal who have fled their homes because a brutal enemy has occupied their town.
These people are isolated from the rest of the world. Dozens of them have already died of hunger and thirst on this dry and rocky mountain, 40 of them on Monday alone. The extremists are said to have taken hundreds of Yezidi women and girls as spoils of war.
These people abandoned their homes because they have seen the brutality of their enemy. They are surrounded by a group of Islamist fighters who have no regard for human life, for traditions, for heritage; they are determined to kill anyone who is not like them.
No wonder the Yezidi people have chosen starvation and a life of uncertainty on a barren mountain over surrender to their vicious enemy.
Shingal is occupied by a group that has no business being there. Do they hope to convert the local population to Islam? Do they hope to stay forever? It is impossible.
The Yezidis have held on to their beliefs for 4,000 years. They have resisted, defied and survived the first Islamic conquest and hundreds of years of subsequent persecution and degradation at the hands of their neighbors. They will not give up now.
Like the people of Leningrad during World War II, they would rather resist not five days but five years than descend the mountain and submit to the will of a radical group that commits a massacre wherever it goes.
The Yezidis are one of the most peaceful people in Iraq: they practice their religion, they farm their land and they want to be left alone.
They have never harmed anyone. They don’t try to convert you and they don’t want you to impose your religion on them.
But Iraq is no place for peaceful people. It is no place for diversity. Yezidis are called “devil worshipers.” For 10 years their villages have been attacked with car bombs. Their young men going to Mosul to find work have been kidnapped and beheaded.
The plight of the Yezidis today is a test for the world conscience. It is understandable if the West isn’t interested in getting involved in the Shiite-Sunni war, but they shouldn’t be silent to the suffering of this noble people.
If the world is sincere about religious diversity, heritage sites, ancient cultures and ethnic minorities, then here is a case for them.
The people of Leningrad withstood a siege by Hitler’s forces that lasted almost three years until they saw their enemy defeated. The Yezidi Kurds will also see the backs of their enemies and will sooner or later return to rebuild their homes and shrines.
But why to sit and watch them die? Young men from every corner of Kurdistan have taken up arms and are now fighting for Shingal. The whole world should do the same.