Watchdog says Yezidi fighters allegedly executed civilians

Sinjar Mountains

Baghdad ( – Yezidi fighters in Iraq allegedly forcibly disappeared and killed 52 civilians from the Imteywit tribe in June 2017, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

Relatives of victims told Human Rights Watch that on June 4, 2017, Yezidi forces detained and then apparently executed men, women, and children from eight Imteywit families who were fleeing fighting between the Islamic State and Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) west of Mosul.

Yezidi forces were also implicated in two other incidents of enforced disappearances of members of the Imteywit and Jahaysh tribes in late 2017.

“As the ground fighting against ISIS winds down in Iraq, state security forces need to turn their focus to preventing retaliation and upholding the rule of law,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Past atrocities against the Yezidis don’t give its armed forces a free pass to commit abuses against other groups, whatever their past.”

Human Rights Watch spoke to two Imteywit members who traveled through the village where, two hours later, the 52 people went missing. Human Rights Watch also spoke to a member of the PMF intelligence services who had visited the village and saw several mass graves that local Yezidi residents told him contained the bodies of the Imteywit victims. A Yezidi community leader provided Human Rights Watch with a list of five Yezidi fighters who he said told him they had killed the families.

In late April, as fighting approached the area just south of the Sinjar region, ISIS forces moved their families from the village of Ain Ghazal in Qayrawan to the desert north of the town of Baaj, two Imteywit men said.

They said that on June 4, the Imam Ali Battalions, a PMF unit, retook the area from ISIS, and started moving local families out of the desert in a convoy of 70 cars traveling north toward Tel Afar. The two men and their relatives – 22 men, 20 women, and 10 children from the Imteywit tribe traveling in seven cars – broke off from the other members of the convoy.

When one car in the smaller convoy got a flat tire, the other cars stopped and waited for the tire to be fixed. The two men opted to head north ahead of the others, and traveled about 18 kilometers, reaching the village of Qabusiye at about 2 p.m.

They said that a car with four Yezidi fighters, one of whom they recognized from home, flagged them down and forced them out of their car. The fighters asked them where they were from and said they would kill the two men as revenge for what ISIS had done to the Yezidis. Just then, the men said, a vehicle carrying Imam Ali Battalion fighters drove up, which ended the altercation, and escorted the two men to safety in the town of Qayrawan.

The men said that two hours later they called a cousin traveling in the convoy to warn them about the Yezidi fighters on the road. The cousin said they were arriving at Qabusiye, but then the call dropped, and his phone was soon switched off. The men said their relatives never made it to Qayrawan and the men have not been able to find out any information about their relatives since. The men gave Human Rights Watch a list of the 52 people in the convoy.

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