Tens of thousands of members of the small Yazidi minority are fleeing their traditional homeland in northwestern Iraq after ISIS routed Kurdish forces and took over the region.
Reports of executions have emerged, and Yazidi community leader Jawhar Ali Begg claimed “thousands of Yazidi people have been killed” since the ISIS takeover. That hasn’t been confirmed, however, and other reports suggested the number killed was smaller.
Ethnic Kurds, the Yazidi follow a religion related to Zoroastrianism. There are an estimated 700,000 Yazidis in the world, with 500,000 of them in Iraq, mostly in the northwest of Nineveh Province.
Contrasted with the claims of mass executions, ISIS was also reported to be pushing the Yazidis to convert to Islam or agree to pay a Jizya tax, echoing their strategy toward Christians living in ISIS-held areas.
The Jizya tax offers non-Muslims legal protections in a Muslim-ruled country, but has mostly been phased out in the past century. Bringing it back seems to be an effort by ISIS to solve the problem of their territorial gains giving them control over non-trivial religious minority populations.
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