UN urges world to do more for Iraq’s Yazidis

Ban Ki-moon makes appeal as up to 30,000 remain in ‘dire’ conditions on arid Mount Sinjar

Tue, Aug 12, 2014, 21:28

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has urged countries around the world to do more for Iraqi civilians who have fled the advance of Islamist militants in Iraq and sought refuge in remote mountain areas.

“The plight of Yazidis and others on Mount Sinjar is especially harrowing,” Mr Ban told reporters, adding that the “situation on the mountain is dire”.

“I urge the international community to do even more to provide the protection they need,” he said.

An Iraqi army helicopter carrying aid and evacuating displaced members of the Yazidi minority in northern Iraq crashed today, in an accident that killed the pilot and wounded passengers, a government spokesman said.

A Yazidi member of parliament, Vian Dakheel, was among those injured, the prime minister‘s military spokesman, Qassim Atta, told a televised news conference.

During a parliament session this month, Ms Dakheel broke into tears describing the plight of her fellow Yazidis, who have fled hardline Sunni militants of the Islamic State during their onslaught in northern Iraq.

The New York Times reported that one of its reporters, Alissa Rubin, was also injured in the crash, suffering “an apparent concussion and broken wrists”.

Aircraft have been dropping food and other supplies to Yazidis who have taken refuge in remote mountains. The United Nations said earlier today that 20,000 to 30,000 Yazidis may still be sheltering on the arid Mount Sinjar.

Around a quarter of a million Iraqis from religious minorities have already fled their homes in the face of “convert or die” ultimatums from the advancing militants, with women executed or taken as slaves and teenagers sexually assaulted, their stark report concluded.

The UN’s special rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsak, urged: “All possible measures must be taken urgently to avoid a mass atrocity and potential genocide within days or hours — civilians need to be protected on the ground and escorted out of situations of extreme peril.”

The UN refugee agency said up to 35,000 people had managed to reach Iraqi Kurdistan’s Dohuk governorate after escaping from Mount Sinjar.

“The new arrivals are exhausted, dehydrated and many have suffered sun or heat stroke, with the daily temperatures reaching 40 to 45 degrees Celsius,” UN high commissioner for refugees spokesman Adrian Edwards.

A further 10,000 to 15,000 had arrived in Syria, but as many as 30,000 remained on the mountain.