Iraqi government and U.N. officials say thousands of Yazidi refugees are still dying on Mount Sinjar, even though President Barack Obama has declared his top-priority rescue mission to be successfully accomplished.
The non-Muslim Yazidis fled from nearby towns after they were attacked by local tribes and advancing jihadis, who claim the Koran’s text requires them to kill and enslave non-Muslims.
The administration’s Aug. 14 claim “is not true,” said Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of Iraq’s parliament, told The New York Times.
Up to 80,000 people are still trapped on the southern slopes of sprawling mountain, she said, while recovering in a hospital from from an Aug. 12 helicopter crash. The crash happened during a supply-and-rescue mission to the mountain.
“It’s better now than it had been, but it’s just not true that all of them are safe,” Dakhil said.
“Especially on the south side of the mountain, the situation is very terrible. There are still people who are not getting any aid,” she said.
Her claim was backed up by a UN. aid official, according to the Times. “The crisis on Mount Sinjar is by no means over,” said David Swanson, the spokesman for the United Nations’ operations in the north of Iraq.
“Although many people managed to escape from the north side, there are still thousands of others up there, under conditions of extreme heat, dehydration and imminent threat of attack,” Swanson said from his base in the city of Dohuk.
His claim is corroborated by “multiple, both primary and secondary, sources coming in… it is far from over,” he said.
Obama and administration officials, however, insist on their mission accomplished claim.
“We broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar, we helped vulnerable people reach safety, and we helped save many innocent lives,” Obama said in a brief Aug. 14 statement at his vacation spot in Martha’s Vinyard. “We do not expect there to be an additional operation to evacuate people on the mountain, and it is unlikely that we are going to need to continue humanitarian airdrops on the mountain,” he said, shortly before departing for another golf game. (RELATED: Mission Accomplished On Iraq’s Mount Sinjar, Obama Declares)
A U.S. reconnaissance team on the mountain counted only 4,000 to 5,000 Yazidis on the mountain, and concluded they have adequate supplies of airdropped water and food. Kurdish fighters had escorted thousands of Yazidis off the mountain over five night, officials said.
“Getting on the mountain and see for ourselves that things weren’t as bad as we thought was a pleasant surprise,” said the Pentagon’s top spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby.
The administration’s number was echoed by a Yazidi now in Arizona, whose family walked over the mountain to safety.
His family says “there is still 3,000, 4000, people on the mountain, but they don’t want to leave, because they don’t trust Peshmerg [Kurish soldiers] or Kurdistan government to go live with them,” said the Yazidi, who formerly served as a translator for U.S. army units in Iraq. He stays in contact with his family via cellphone.
Many other Yazidis were caught by the jihadi army, dubbed the Islamic State. The men and boys were killed, while the women are being enslaved, said the translator, whose nickname was “William Wallace.”
Roughly 1,200 women and girls are being held in two schools in the nearby city of Tal Afar, he said. Many will be forced to “marry” jihadis, he said. Other Yazidi villages are being attacked and destroyed by the jihadis. Their occupants are either killed or enslaved, he said.
The Yazidi does not want his name published because it could endanger his family, who are now refugees in the Kurdish city of Dohuk. They were driven to Dohuk after walking off the mountain.