ISIS Persecution Creates Market for Human Traffickers Smuggling Yazidis Out of Iraq

Hamit Huseyin / Anadolu Agency
Hamit Huseyin / Anadolu Agency

The persecution by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) of Iraq’s minority Yazidi population has pushed thousands to find any means to escape the grips of the barbaric terrorist group, coughing up hefty sums of money to secure their freedom.

“It’s a sort of rescue operation,” claimed Murad Ismael, who works for the Yazidi NGO Yazda that helps displaced Yazidis.

Ismael said the highest price he knows of was $15,000, but the majority of smugglers “demand around $1,000 per captive.” A Yazidi group in Germany forked over $22,540 to rescue a Yazidi girl in Deir al-Zor. Hayri Demir, editor-in-chief of Ezidi Press, said this was “a special case because the smugglers knew the Yazidis paying for the rescue were in Europe.”

“This may look like business to you but it’s actually charitable work,” said one Kurdish van driver who transports Yazidis from Iraq. “They have no visa, no passport. They live in awful conditions in Iraq. Should I just ignore them?”

Sewra, 56, and her family “paid $500 to an Iraqi man with relatives in Turkey who said he could get them over the border to safety without passports or visas.” She told Reuters she “would have killed” herself if ISIS caught her and “there’s no going back” to Iraq.

Demir says local Sunnis make up the majority of the smugglers.

“These are often loyal to [IS] but make their money smuggling these women, but among them there are also some Sunnis who helped women without money,” he explained.

Yet, there are a lot of people who choose to smuggle the Yazidis free of charge.

“Sunni Arabs in Syria are risking their lives [to save Yazidis],” said Ismael.

The Kurdistan Workers’s Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and NATO, refused money from Yazidi refugees. In September, BasNews reported the PKK forced all Yazidis to pay in order to be rescued. Amy L. Beam with The Kurdistan Tribune visited Yazidi refugees who all contradicted the report. In fact, the PKK members refused all money when offered:

Several Yezidis in Batman and elsewhere stated that not only did the PKK refuse money, but they also ordered taxi and bus drivers to refund the money they had charged to Yezidis for driving them to the PKK at the mountain north of Zakho, Iraq. The PKK is enforcing a strict policy that all services and aid to Yezidi refugees is to be given free of charge. The PKK provided security, transportation, food, blankets, and guiding from Shengal (also known as Sinjar or Şingale) to the mountain border between Iraq and Turkey.

“Thank God for the PKK,” exclaimed Mirza, 22. “They brought us from over the border, they saved us from Daash.”

In August 2014, ISIS forced Yazidis to escape into the mountains. The Syrian Kurds decided to “carve out an escape route for tens of thousands trapped on a mountaintop.” The United States and Iraq dropped supplies on the mountains, but the Syrian Kurds knew that was not enough for these poor people.

“The (Kurdish fighters) opened a path for us. If they had not, we would still be stranded on the mountain,” cried Ismail Rashu, 22.

The United Nations said over 50,000 people escaped in the mountains. The Kurds claimed they saved 45,000 of the people.

“We answered their cries for help,” explained military official Omar Ali. “They were in danger and we opened a safe passage for them into safety. We saw that we had to help them and protect them; they are Kurds and part of our nation.”


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