Kurdish authorities took in the former captives after they were found dumped at a bridge near Irbil. The Isis militant group has released at least 200 elderly, ill or very young members of the Yazidi religious community in a move that has surprised fighters on the front line in Iraq. The former prisoners were received by the Kurdish Peshmerga after they were dropped off at a bridge near the regional capital of Irbil.
The motive for their release after five months in the hands of Isis, also known as “Islamic State”, remains unclear, and comes after a campaign of persecution that has seen more than 50,000 of their people displaced. The 200 men, women and children are now being cared for and questioned about their experience by the Kurdish authorities in Kirkuk.
One elderly Yazidi man told the AFP news agency they thought that when militants ordered them onto buses they were being taken away for execution. Khodr Domli, a leading Yazidi rights activist, told the agency: “Some are wounded, some have disabilities and many are suffering from mental and psychological problems.” Peshmerga General Shirko Fatih, who leads the Kurdish forces in Kirkuk, said almost all the freed prisoners were of poor health, bearing signs of abuse and neglect. Their number included three young children. General Fatih speculated that the militants may have released the prisoners because they had become too great a burden. “It probably became too expensive to feed them and care for them,” he said.
In August, tens of thousands of Yazidis fled to the Sinjar mountains after Isis began rounding up all members of the religious minority, killing the men of fighting age and taking women as slaves. Some remain there, though a Kurdish advance last month broke the Sinjar siege and drove Isis back in northwestern Iraq. Estimates from within the Yazidi community suggest around 3,000 are still being held as prisoners.
Report originally published by the UK’s Independent newspaper: