“I would rather die than live in this hell,” he said. The young boy speaking to me was no more than 13 years old, but his words were that of a much older man, a broken man who had given up on life. “Look around you,” he said. “Is this the way human beings are meant to live?”
It was only a few months ago that the Yazidis were going about their daily lives, a population of roughly 700,000, the vast majority of them living in and around the mountainous Sinjar region of northern Iraq.
The Yazidi faith is an offshoot of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. The religion has adopted elements from each, ranging from baptism in Christianity to circumcision in Islam, to the reverence of fire as a manifestation of God, derived from Zoroastrianism.
The Yazidi religion remains distinctly non-Abrahamic, and while the Yazidis are ethnically Kurdish, their minority faith has been the main cause for their persecution.
Although historically the Yezidis were subject to genocides in both the 18th and 19th centuries, it was not until more recently in 2007 that they were under the spotlight again after being targeted by al-Qaeda in Iraq and subjected to indiscriminate killings.
The Yazidis have been denounced as infidels and devil worshippers by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levante (ISIL). They have also been subjected to threats by the group that they either convert to Islam or face death. ISIL has killed more than 5,000 of their men, and abducted more than 7,000 of their women who are being detained in camps and are being sold as slaves and concubines – the unlucky ones who never got away.
Almost a quarter of a million of the displaced Yazidis are children. The children unsurprisngly are the worst affected victims of this conflict.
Pray for the Yazidis, particularly for the children who are suffering all the effects of being witnesses of great violence, displacement and an uncertain future.