Date
24 October 2017
Yazidi refugees on the outskirts of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Islamic State view the non-Muslim minority as devil-worshippers. Photo: Reuters
Yazidi refugees on the outskirts of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Islamic State view the non-Muslim minority as devil-worshippers. Photo: Reuters

About 3,500 slaves held by Islamic State in Iraq, says UN

An estimated 3,500 people, mainly women and children, are being held as slaves in Iraq by Islamic State militants, the United Nations said.

The Islamist group, which controls large parts of Iraq and Syria, is responsible for acts that may “amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide”, particularly against minorities, Reuters said, citing a UN report released on Tuesday.

Iraqi security forces and allied groups including Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have also killed and abducted civilians, the report said.

“Some of these incidents may have been reprisals against persons perceived to support or be associated with [Islamic State],” it added.

At least 18,802 civilians were killed in violence in Iraq from January 2014 to October 2015, and 36,245 civilians were wounded, the report said, calling the figures “obscene”.

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and the UN human rights office estimated that 3,500 people were “currently being held in slavery” by Islamic State, which seized mainly Sunni-populated areas in the north and west in 2014.

“Those being held are predominantly women and children and come primarily from the Yazidi community,” said the joint report issued in Geneva.

Yazidi are a non-Muslim minority in northern Iraq viewed by Islamic State as devil-worshippers.

“But a number are also from other ethnic and religious minority communities,” the report added.

The Sunni Islamists, who claim responsibility for suicide bombings in Baghdad against Shiite mosques and markets, should face prosecution for international crimes, said Francesco Motta, director of the UN human rights office in Iraq.

“They use civilians as shields. They use children in armed conflict, they also directly target civilian infrastructure and that can amount to war crimes but they can also constitute crimes against humanity,” he told a news briefing by telephone from Baghdad.

The group seeks to “basically eliminate, purge or destroy minority communities”, Motta said.

“We’ve seen communities like the Yazidi in particular bear the brunt of this. Yazidi were basically given the option by [Islamic State] to convert or to be killed.

“The intent seems clear … the international crime of genocide,” he said.

“The intention was to destroy part or the whole of the Yazidi people.”

The report detailed Islamic State executions by shooting, beheading, bulldozing, burning alive and throwing people off buildings.

Doctors, teachers and journalists opposed to its ideology have been “singled out and murdered”, it added.

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RA/CG

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