Yezidis at their holy site of Lalish celebrate their new year on April 17, 2018. Photo: Safin Hamed | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — An activist group has reported that its sources confirmed “11 Yezidi civilians” were kidnapped by gunmen in Afrin.
“[T]en 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,” Yazda wrote in a statement on Friday.
Afrin is a city in northwestern Syria that came under the control of the Turkish military and proxy fighters in March after a nearly two-month battle against Kurdish YPG forces.
“Yazidi civilians from Qatma village near Afrin were taken by militia members to an unknown destination [on Thursday],” according to Yazda.
Yazda is a Yezidi activist group based in the Kurdistan Region and the United States with several international offices.
Afrin is a diverse area of Syria, home to Kurds, Yezidis, Arabs, Christians, and other components.
It had been controlled by the Kurdish-majority YPG (People’s Protection Units) until the Turkish assault.
“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,” wrote the organization.
Nadia Murad, Yezidi activist and UN Goodwill Ambassador who escaped from ISIS captivity, tweeted that more must be done for Yezidis to return to their homeland in Shingal.”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 Yaidis are living in IDP camps and they need to go home,” she tweeted on Saturday morning.
It was not clear who paid the ransom in Afrin. The KRG had paid more than $5 million to secure the release of 3,004 Yezidi people from ISIS captivity since 2014, Iraqi MP Vian Dakhil said in May 2017.
Yezidis in Iraq and Syria have been targeted since 2014 since the rise of the ISIS extremist group.
YPG, as a part of the US-led coalition backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), KRG Peshmerga and security forces in Iraq, and the Iraqi Security Forces have worked to free Yezidis as areas in both countries are liberated from ISIS.
In August 2014, more than 6,000 members of the religious minority were taken captive by ISIS when they swept through northern Iraq, committing genocide against the Yezidis.
Around 200,000 or about half of the Yezidi population in Iraq fled into the Kurdistan Region or Syria in 2014.
Nearly half of the abductees remain unaccounted for.