At least 9,900 members of the Yazidi community were killed or kidnapped in a matter of days during the Islamic State (IS) siege on Mount Shingal in Iraq in August 2014, according to a study in weekly journal PLOS Medicine published on Tuesday.
The study estimates that 3,100 Yazidis were murdered – half by gunshot, bleeding or being burned alive, while the rest died from injuries, dehydration or starvation. About 6,800 were kidnapped and eventually forced to become sex slaves or fighters.
“Until now, there has not been clarity on the numbers of Yazidis killed and captured by ISIS during the attack on Mount Shingal,” lead researcher Valeria Cetorelli, a demographer from John Hopkins University and the London School of Economics and Political Science told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Cetorelli spent three months in 2015 interviewing a random sample of 1,300 surviving Yazidi families in Iraqi camps, and found at least 2.5 percent of the 400,000 people large minority group living in the Shingal area were killed or enslaved.
She said that there has not been clarity on the numbers of Yazidis killed and captured during the IS siege. “What we wanted to do, in anticipation of a possible trial, is provide the best estimates that we can get of the people affected,” she said.
IS members could go on trial for genocide based on the gathered evidence in the future.
“Our findings are really consistent with other evidence, for example, what is being found in mass graves or accounts from survivors, people who managed to escape captivity,” Cetorelli said.
“So all this together can really help support a formal genocide investigation by either the International Criminal Court or another appointed judicial authority.”
The Shingal massacre began when IS attacked and captured Shingal and neighbouring towns in Iraqi Kurdistan on 3 August 2014. While 9,900 were murdered or captured, about 40,000 fled to the Shingal mountains.
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters eventually arrived in the area helping thousands of Yazidis by opening up a safety corridor.
The UN has called the displacement and killing of the Yazidis a genocide.