human stories

The 2014 Genocide Against the Yazidis by the Islamic State (ISIS)

Photo: Karol Grygoruk

“Over the course of two weeks [in August 2014], the Sinjar region of Iraq was invaded by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). ISIS militants undertook a strategized campaign to ethnically cleanse Yazidis from existence.

“Approximately 400,000 Yazidis fled to the neighboring Kurdistan Region of Iraq and tens of thousands took refuge on Mount Sinjar, where they faced near starvation. The rest, unable to flee, were killed or taken into captivity and subjected to horrific acts of violence—enslavement, forced labor, conscription, torture, and rape.

“ISIS considered Yazidis ‘infidels’ and ordered men to either convert or die. Women, on the other hand, were given no choice. They were taken captive, married off to the highest bidder, sexually enslaved, and forced to convert.

“More than 6,000 women and children were taken captive by ISIS and nearly 2,800 are still missing today. Sexual violence was strategically used as a weapon of war and codified in ISIS manuals that explained how to traffic Yazidi women. ISIS believed that violating women would destroy the community from within.”


Tactics of Genocide

“ISIS’ persecution of Yazidis was so comprehensive, it is as if they used the criteria for genocide as a guideline for how to destroy the community:

1. Murdering men and older women en masse and filling over 80 mass graves throughout Sinjar.

2. Abducting women and children, enslaving girls and brainwashing boys into joining the ranks of the terrorist group.

3. Torturing captives with sexual and physical violence, causing irreversible trauma.

4. Raping women to ensure that children born to Yazidi women would be considered Muslim, not Yazidi, under Iraq’s patrilineal nationality law.

5. Destroying property, schools, hospitals, and homes; burning farms; disabling electrical networks; and polluting water sources, so Yazidis would not be able to survive in Sinjar.”

Photo: Agata Grzybowska


  1. “About the Genocide” and “Tactics of Genocide,” Nadia’s Initiative website, https://www.nadiasinitiative.org/the-genocide [URL accessed November 14, 2022]