(BAGHDAD) — Members of the Yazidi minority group who were forced onto a mountain in order to escape from ISIS in northern Iraq have started fleeing to refugee camps and telling their stories.
The Yazidis, a religious minority in Iraq, have been targeted by the Islamic army for being what they call “devil worshipers” who were forced to flee when they didn’t agree to convert to Islam.
At a refugee camp in Dahuk, Iraq, 21-year-old Haifa Naif told ABC News that she had a phone call with her aunt who ISIS reportedly took as one of its captives. Her aunt said that ISIS separated the men and women, and then took the young girls — specifically the virgins — into a different undisclosed location.
“I would rather all the girls of my family be killed,” Naif said sobbing, “than lose their honor by being made playthings for ISIS.”
Air drops of emergency aid helped some stave off starvation and dehydration over the weekend, and now many have made it to refugee camps in Dahuk where they are cramped among dozens of relatives.
Among the refugees are two Yazidis who previously worked as interpreters for the U.S. Army on the front lines.
“I still believe they will come save us,” one of the men told ABC News of the American forces, without giving his name.
Some of the missing may have been gunned down by militants during the escape. Others were lost as families scattered in panic under gunfire from extremists chasing them into the mountains.
The Yazidis are an ethnic minority in Iraq made up mostly of ethnic Kurds and isolated from the rest of the population due to their ancient beliefs. Their belief system is thought to be a mix of different religions, including Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism, a Persian religion that was once the state religion in parts of ancient empires in what is now Iran.
ISIS, which now calls itself the Islamic State, issued an ultimatum to tens of thousands of Yazidis on Saturday to convert to Islam, pay a religious fine, flee their homes or face death.
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Roshni Majumdar and Deborah Bloom, CNN Newswire
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Ralph Ellis and Steve Almasy, CNN