‘Gruesome evidence’ of ethnic cleansing in Iraq found

First-hand accounts from survivors tell of summary killings and abductions by Islamic State

Amnesty International claims to have discovered "gruesome evidence" of ethnic cleansing by the Islamic State jihadists in northern Iraq.

The human rights organisation says IS is carrying out war crimes, including mass summary killings and abductions, against ethnic and religious minorities in the country.

"The Islamic State is carrying out despicable crimes and has transformed rural areas of Sinjar into blood-soaked killing fields in its brutal campaign to obliterate all trace of non- Arabs and non-Sunni Muslims," said Amnesty's senior crisis response advisor Donatella Rovera.

A new report from the organisation, based on first-hand accounts from survivors of massacres, describes “how dozens of men and boys in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq were rounded up by Islamic State fighters, bundled into pick-up trucks and taken to village outskirts to be massacred in groups or shot individually”.


The United Nations announced yesterday that it is to send 11 investigators to Iraq to examine crimes being committed by Islamic State militants on “an unimaginable scale”, with a view to holding perpetrators to account.

“We are facing a terrorist monster,” Iraq’s human rights minister, Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani, told the UN Human Rights Council which adopted a resolution tabled by Iraq and France at an emergency sitting of the 47-member state forum in Geneva.

Islamic State, which declared a “caliphate” in June in parts of Iraq and Syria under its control, has been cited as a major security threat by Western governments since posting a video in August of the beheading of US journalist James Foley.

More than 1.2 million people have been driven from their homes so far this year. Figures from the UN published yesterday show at least 1,420 people were killed in sectarian violence in Iraq in August alone.

Amnesty believes hundreds of women and children from the Yazidi minority have also been abducted since the Islamic State took control of the area.

The organisation claims to have gathered evidence of several mass killings in Sinjar in August, including the raiding of two villages at Qiniyeh and Kocho.

“The number of those killed in these villages alone runs into the hundreds. Groups of men and boys including children as young as 12 from both villages were seized by IS militants, taken away and shot,” the report states.

“The fate of most of the hundreds of Yazidis abducted and held captive by the Islamic State remains unknown. Many of those held by IS have been threatened with rape or sexual assault or pressured to convert to Islam. In some cases entire families have been abducted.”

One man gave Amnesty International a list of 45 names of missing relatives, all women and children.

Executive director of Amnesty International Ireland Colm O'Gorman said the people involved in carrying out the massacres must be apprehended and brought to justice.

“The people of northern Iraq deserve to live free from persecution without fearing for their lives at every turn,” he said.

“Instead of aggravating the fighting by either turning a blind eye to sectarian militias or arming Shia militias against the Islamic State as the authorities have done so far, Iraq’s government should focus on protecting all civilians regardless of their ethnicity or religion.”

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny, founding editor of Irish Times Abroad, a section for Irish-connected people around the world, is Editor of the Irish Times Magazine