The Yazidis face starvation and dehydration if they remain on the mountain, and slaughter at the hands of the IS if they flee.
Just three years after the complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and taking the conscience decision against military intervention in Syria barely an year ago, US President Barack Obama has authorised air strikes against Islamic militants in northern Iraq.
However, he has decided not to send US troops back to the country again.
Briefing the press in the White House, Obama said that the Islamic State (IS) fighters would be targeted to prevent the slaughter of religious minorities, or if they threaten US interests.
The strikes have not yet begun.
The UN estimates that about 200,000 civilians have been displaced from the town of Sinjar and about 50,000 Yazidis are thought to have been trapped on the tp of a mountain.
The Yazidis face starvation and dehydration if they remain on the mountain, and slaughter at the hands of the IS if they flee. One analysis suggests that “24 C-130 transport aircraft flying round trips every day would be necessary to keep the Yazidi supplied with water” — and that doesn’t even include food.
The whole operation is based on humanitarian grounds. “When many thousands of innocent civilians are in danger of being wiped out, and we have the capacity to help, we will take action,” Obama said.
However, one cannot look over the fact that hundreds of Christians are being slaughtered in Iraq, which also houses many of US officials, and which is the main concern of Obama administration.
Yazidis are simply the ‘endangered species’ which “America is going to help” in the words of Obama.
Obama said US military aircraft had already dropped food and water to members of the Yazidi religious minority community trapped on Mount Sinjar by IS fighters.
The IS militants have seized Qaraqosh, Iraq’s biggest Christian town, forcing locals to flee. The Sunni Muslim group, formerly known as ISIS, has been gaining ground in northern Iraq and Syria for several months.
So who are these Yaidis that Obama is keen on helping?
They are secretive group whose origins and ethnicity are subject to continuing debate.
Yazidis are often referred to as “devil worshippers” by many Muslim and other groups because of their unusual beliefs. According to the scholars, Sunni extremists, such as IS, believe that the name of this group is derived from Yazid ibn Muawiya (647-683), the deeply unpopular second caliph of the Umayyad dynasty.
Modern research, however, has clarified that the name is nothing to do with the loose-living Yazid, or the Persian city of Yazd, but is taken from the modern Persian “ized”, which means angel or deity. The name Izidis simply means “worshippers of god“, which is how Yazidis describe themselves.
Yazidis live in small communities, mainly scattered across Iraq’s Nineveh plains, northwest Syria and southeast Turkey. There are estimated to be around 500,000 Yazidis worldwide.
Like other minority religions of the region, such as the Druze and the Alawis, it is not possible to convert to Yazidism, only to be born into it.
They revere both the Bible and the Koran. Much of their own tradition is oral.
Children are baptised with consecrated water by a pir (priest). At weddings he breaks bread and gives one half to the bride and the other to the groom. The bride, dressed in red, visits Christian churches.
In December, Yazidis fast for three days, before drinking wine with the pir. On 15-20 September there is an annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Sheikh Adi at Lalesh north of Mosul, where they carry out ritual ablutions in the river.
They also practice sacrifice of animals and circumcision. Thus, they share many elements with Christianity and Islam.
Obama’s statement is being seen as hugely symbolic but the critics are calling it too limited operation which will do little to damage the militants and their power.
One analysis suggests that “24 C-130 transport aircraft flying round trips every day would be necessary to keep the Yazidi supplied with water” — and that doesn’t even include food.