Yazidi Genocide: How Faisal’s Family Was Massacred.
By Amy L. Beam, Ed.D:
Faisal Mahmud Kharow is an Ezidi from Shingal, Iraq. Twelve members of his family were mercilessly executed and 22 females and a ten-day-old infant boy were kidnapped on August 3, 2014, during the genocidal attack on Shingal by Islamic State gangs. I interviewed Faisal in Germany, where he now lives with his wife and teenage daughter.
Ali Sedo, Amy Beam, Faisal Kharow and wife Wadha Owain
I traveled to meet Faisal from southeast Turkey where I have been listening to dozens of Ezidi stories (also spelled Yazidi) for three months, documenting the atrocities of beheadings, mass executions, kidnappings, torture, and rape.
On the train from Hannover, I realized that I, too, was now traumatized. Families were heading home from Christmas shopping with helium-filled balloons. Teenage girls were giggling with squeaky voices after breathing the helium, toddlers were playing with their new toys and squealing with joy in the aisle. These were happy families.
It seemed unjust that they should dare to be normal and oblivious after a genocide. As if submerged underwater, I listened to their laughter from a disconnected distance without so much as a smile for the children. Would I ever laugh again? After one discovers how evil human beings can be, can one’s heart ever heal? Can there be such a thing as “normal” life again?
Faisal came with his life-long friend Ali Sedo to meet my train. In Faisal’s home we sat at the table with our computers, listing the names and ages of the dead and kidnapped as business-like as if we were doing end-of-year inventory.
I questioned him about that terrible day like an interrogator to verify all the details. “Was the road paved or dirt?” “Were they shot inside the house or outside?” I cringed inside with each question, searching for words to soften the brutality.
All eyes remained dry through the four-hour telling of the story. A massacre on the scale of genocide petrifies your heart into stone, dries your eyes, freezes the muscles on your face. Chit-chat about the mundane seems offensive.
When we finished, I went to bed and smothered my sobs in my pillow, although I wanted to go outside in the cold night and wail until my scream reached the edge of the universe.
Faisal Mahmud Kharow’s 75-year-old mother, Ghizil Qasim, lived between Tel Azer and Jaddala on the south side of Shingal Mountain with her grown children and grandchildren. Faisal’s father died at age 85. Their farm estate was called Siba Mahmud Kharow. The Arabic word “siba” means a deep well that is pumping water. They were living near the main paved road which goes toward Siba Shekh Khuder and continues to the city of Baaj heading toward Syria to the west.
Here is Faisal’s story. Photos are shared with his permission in hopes of locating his missing nieces.
My parents were farmers in Shingal (also referred to as Sinjar) and owned their own well and pumping station to irrigate their fields and water their animals. They owned 50 acres (80 Iraqi donum). They were growing barley and wheat for cereal and alfalfa for the animals. They had a modern sprinkler irrigation system. They also grew vegetables in their greenhouse. They owned 152 sheep. They owned two cars and two pickup trucks for their farm.
This is where I grew up, but I fled with my wife and daughter to Germany five years ago where I am a refugee. This is not the first time Ezidis have come under attack, but it is the worst, because now our homeland of Shingal is finished. There is nothing to return to. Our hope is lost.
My mother called me on the phone on August 3, between noon and 1 pm right after our family had been attacked by Daesh. In Iraq we do not call it the Islamic State. How can it be a state? We call the terrorists Daesh.
On August 3, 2014, Daesh attacked Shingal from the south side of the mountain. They moved from east to west through one village after another. Friends and relatives were calling ahead to the villages, warning them of the atrocities being committed, and telling people to run. Daesh was slaughtering people.
Some of our family lived in the town of Tel Azer. They had already come to the family farm to be together with all our relatives. They thought this was safer than staying in Tel Azer. It was also nearer to Sinjar Mountain. By mid-day Daesh reached my family. They arrived in 12 cars on the paved highway and turned off the highway to our home.
When Daesh was advancing, my family could hear random shooting. Yazidis began fleeing toward the mountain on foot. They came to our pumping station for water. It was a hot, dusty August day. August is the dry season, and there is no rain.
My sister told me later that more than 20 people were killed by Daesh around our farm. This does not include my own family members. More than 100 of my relatives gathered inside several houses on our property. When Daesh came, they divided our family into three groups.
- men and boys over 10,
- adult women and their children, and
- girls and single young women.
They loaded the single women and girls into the family’s four vehicles and drove west toward the Syrian border. Then they gathered the men in one room. They shot and killed three men in the room, then took the remaining 8 men and one woman outside the house to an area enclosed by a wall.
They told them they had to convert to Islam or they would be killed. They refused to convert to Islam, so Daesh shot and killed all but one of them. My three brothers, Barkat Mahmud Kharow (age 45), Murad (39), and Mirza (35), were killed. Barkat’s son, Farman (24), was wounded and his other son, Farhan (22), was killed. Six male cousins and one female cousin were also killed.
My brothers’ daughters were kidnapped: Muhbat (25), Hadiah (18), Haifaah (17), Nazdar (17), and Samira (15). Altogether Daesh kidnapped 22 females and one infant boy.
The women and children were being held inside the house. They heard the shooting when the men were being killed. Then some Daesh men poured kerosene over all the women and children. Before they could set them on fire, one of the Daesh received a phone call, and then all the Daesh immediately left.
All these events occurred within half-an-hour. There were between 60 and 70 women and children left behind. Then the women went to the men who had been shot. They discovered my nephew, Farman, was still alive. He had one bullet lodged in his thigh and one in his knee. Farman told my mother that they had been told to convert to Islam but all had refused, and then they were shot.
After Daesh left, my mother and Farman’s wife carried Farman to our neighbor’s home, about 300 meters from our home. The neighbor cleaned his wounds, and wrapped them to try to stop the bleeding. Then he and his family fled on foot to the Sinjar Mountain 3 km to the north. Only his mother stayed behind with my mother. Farman’s wife fled, also. The remaining women and children from my own family, also, fled on foot to the mountain. This was around noon on August 3rd.
My mother stayed behind with my nephew, Farman, in the neighbor’s house. She then called me from the neighbor’s house on her mobile phone and told me what had happened. I, also, spoke to Farman on the phone. He told me he would die if he did not reach a hospital.
Daesh returned the next day on August 4. They took all 152 sheep. They took Farman to Sinjar Hospital. Farman took my mother’s mobile phone with him. Afterwards, when I phoned my mother around 2PM, it was Farman who answered in the hospital. He explained where he was. I heard the ambulance and the voice of an Arab man in the background. He was saying they had to take Farman to Tel Afar. I also heard planes bombing.
The phone remained open, but Farman did not say goodbye. I listened for five minutes, but there was no reply. I continued to call my mother’s phone number for almost one month. The phone would ring, but nobody answered. We do not know what happened to Farman, but we fear the worst, that he is dead.
My mother returned to our house each day after Daesh took Farman. Also, the mother of the neighbor man who washed Farman’s wounds stayed with my mother. At night the neighbor woman’s son returned for food. He sent me a missed call because he had no credit on his phone, so I called him back. He told me our mothers were there together in the neighbor’s house.
For three days my mother returned each day to her house where the men’s bodies were. She sat alone with them and covered them with blankets. She was always looking for someone to bury them, but no one did. Three days sitting with the dead bodies in that heat. Can you imagine?
After three days, on August 6th, my mother and the neighbor woman left and walked up onto the mountain where they joined the rest of my family and her family. They do not know what happened to the bodies.
Until recently, I was in frequent phone communication with one of my nieces. She is held prisoner by Daesh in Mosul, but we have not heard from her since late November. She knows the house number where she is being held, but she does not know the street name or section of town, so it is impossible to locate her. She said that Daesh told her that her only solution is for her family to come to Mosul and convert to Islam. They promised to give her family what they need.
My mother and other of the adult women made it off Sinjar Mountain with the children to Befür Einweck refugee camp in Dohuk, northern Iraq. They are in a tent in a bad situation. During rains in November their tent flooded. Now it is winter and cold. My brothers, nephews and cousins have been killed by Daesh. The young women are kidnapped. Who will help my mother and the children?
The SPD political party in my city, Steinfurt, Germany, has offered to help me. I want the remainder of my family, about 65 people including the kidnapped women and girls, to join me in Germany. Berlin has agreed to allow my family into Germany, but the government will not pay for their transportation from Iraq to Germany, nor will it pay ransom to Daesh for the 23 kidnapped women, girls, and infant.
Faisal opened his phone, leaned over, and showed me a photo he had received of one of his nieces who was kidnapped. It was a close-up head shot of a dead woman on the floor. He told me she had committed suicide. He passed the phone to me so I could study it. She had two long cuts on her neck. One cut extended half-war around her neck at the jugular vein like a choker necklace. One 7-inch vertical cut runs down the side of her throat. It is crudely stitched up.
“I don’t think she killed herself,” I told Faisal. “Who can cut themselves twice in the neck? The jugular vein would spurt blood all over. That is like a person committing suicide by shooting two bullets into her head.”
I passed the phone back. Faisal studied the photo, then picked up his pen and on his list of kidnapped women, he crossed out “suicide” and wrote “killed” next to the name of Zeri Khuder Ismael.
The brutal murder and kidnapping of Faisal Mahmud Kharow’s family, unfortunately, represents the experience of thousands of families when Shingal was attacked on August 3, 2014. Estimates are of 7,000 Ezidis killed or kidnapped.
This is the 74th massacre against Ezidis. Even if Shingal is cleared of Daesh forces,Ezidis say they will never return to Shingal; they have nothing to return to.
Now they need asylum and financial relocation assistance from the international community. There are at least 200,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kurdistan, Iraq, and approximately another 25,000 Ezidi refugees in southeast Turkey. Ezidis beg the international community to give financial aid and asylum so they can give their children a future. So far, the European Union and the United States have not offered asylum to the Ezidis.
This story cannot end until the women and girls are returned and united with their surviving families. For this they need financial help.
Dr. Amy L. Beam promotes tourism in eastern Turkey (North Kurdistan) and writes in support of Kurdish and Ezidi human rights. She has been reporting on Ezidis in Turkey since August. Read her stories at KurdistantTribune.com. She is writing a book, “Love and Betrayal in Kurdistan.” Follow her on Twitter @amybeam or contact her at email@example.com.