The activist organization Yazda is claiming that “11 Yezidi civilians” were abducted by unknown armed men in Afrin this week. In a statement released by Yazda last week they said, “Ten vehicles carrying masked gunmen stormed houses and arrested people. The group later released a man named Hanan Prem after torturing him and demanding a ransom of $25,000 for his release.” They added that, “Yazidi civilians from Qatma village near Afrin were taken by militia members to an unknown destination [on Thursday].” The lawlessness that plagues Afrin has come in the wake of the Turkish military’s siege and eventual takeover of the city. A battle lasting almost 2 months has leveled much of the city and created large amounts of internally displaced people.

Yazda is an activist organization comprised of mostly Yezidis from the Kurdistan territories with multiple foreign offices located in the United States. Afrin is centered around a surprisingly divers population of Arabs, Yezidis, Kurds, both Muslim and Christian alike. Yazda continued to demand the international community take action, “Yazda calls on Turkey, the United Nations, and the international community, including involving security actors in this region, to search for and liberate kidnapped Yazidi civilians immediately,” the group wrote in their statement.

Yezidi Nadia Murad who is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador tweeter he support of the Yezidi struggle and demand for their return to Shingal, the Yezidi historical home. She said, “We lost Naji Barjas in Sinjar by an IED left behind by ISIS. He returned to his home and the bomb exploded. We continue 2 call on Iraq and the international community to de-mine Yazidi areas. Sinjar needs to be a priority — 350,000 Yezidis are living in IDP camps and they need to go home.” Nadian is an escaped Islamic State prisoner and Yezidi activist.

There has been no report of who provided the ransom money yet. In 2014, the Kurdish Regional Government paid the Islamic State $5 million for the release of 3,004 Yezidi prisoners according to Iraqi Minister of Parliament Vian Dakhil. The Yezid people were the initial prime target for the Islamic State in 2014 when they began carrying out mass executions and sex slavery. That year, around 6,000 Yezidis were taken prisoner by the Islamic State. That same year almost 200,000 Yezidis became displaced throughout Syria and Iraq because of the Islamic State’s takeover. Around half of the people taken in that time still remain missing along with others from outside the religious minority, mass graves are still being uncovered in formerly ISIS occupied territory.

Featured Image Courtesy of the U.K. Department for International Development (picture: Rachel Unkovic/International Rescue Committee) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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