Spent the last two days inside a Yazidi refugee camp on the border of Turkey and Iraq.
A couple of weeks ago, these were ordinary people, wedded to Facebook and smart phones, going to parties, and finishing college. Now they are the survivors of a genocide. Their villages have been destroyed, they cannot return, and they do not know what will happen next. Meanwhile, they wait it out under the 107 degree sun, telling stories of the massacres they escaped.
A man named Barzan, hiding in the mountains with his family, told of watching through binoculars as his village was destroyed. Armed men came and took away the women to marry or turn to sex slaves. Then they lined up 110 of his fellow villagers, including old men, women, and children, and one by one, shot them dead. Barzan watched as his brother was shot. And his good friend, who was standing next to Barzan’s brother, fell down with him, pretending to die.
For some time his friend lay there with the dead and bleeding. The fighters came back to bulldoze the bodies under. And Barzan watched through his binoculars as his uncle moved and was then buried alive. Then his friend, who was hiding beneath the bodies, ran for his life. When he reached Barzan and his family, he was completely crazed.
Most of the people I spoke with had gotten calls in the middle of the night and been told to run. Some were able to grab a passport. Some took a car to the border. Most left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. One older gentleman was even walking around the camp in his nice pajamas. One day they were living their lives and the next they were refugees.
Several thousand Yazidis have now been killed. About 700 women have been kidnapped. And they are being married to the same fighters who have been killing their families. Several thousand more remain in the mountains, hiding from sight, and dying of hunger and thirst.
Sometimes the stories I am being told sound like those of the Palestinian Nakba, in which they were ethnically cleansed from their villages in 1948. They did not expect to go, and so when they did, they often left with nothing. Several generations later, many still long to return. But these stories also remind me of the Holocaust. A small minority is being targeted for destruction because of their religion. They are being systematically murdered and their culture is being wiped out. They may be scattered, and their future is uncertain.
But this may be the first time ever in the history of the world that a genocide is being stopped right as it is getting started. The bombings will help, but they are not enough. We need to put an end to ISIS and we need to understand the people they have targeted so we can help them re-establish their lives.
Please share this widely so that this time we get it right.