It’s difficult to read Amnesty International’s report on ethnic cleansing in Iraq without imagining that you’re reading the script of a movie. Over and over, the report, issued Tuesday, relates accounts of men being taken out of their villages in pickup trucks, lined up in a deserted area, and shot. Often they were shot in the backs, many times at the edge of a “wadi” or a large hole in the ground, into which the bodies would tumble. Some were not gravely injured and feigned death so that they could escape—and tell the story.
Enough Iraqis—Christians, Shia Muslims, Yazidis and others—have told their stories to Amnesty International field investigators that the human rights organization is accusing the Islamic State, which has overrun parts of Syria and Northern Iraq this summer, of ethnic cleansing.
"The massacres and abductions being carried out by the Islamic State provide harrowing new evidence that a wave of ethnic cleansing against minorities is sweeping across northern Iraq,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Adviser currently in northern Iraq. “The Islamic State is carrying out despicable crimes and has transformed rural areas of Sinjar into blood-soaked killing fields in its brutal campaign to obliterate all trace of non- Arabs and non-Sunni Muslims.”
The term “ethnic cleansing” is not used often. In recent memory, the international community has applied it to only a few cases, such as Bosnia and Rwanda.
At other times, the report reads like something straight out of the Nazi era in Germany:
“They split us into two groups, men and boys of 12 and older in one group and women and younger children in another group,” a survivor relates to an Amnesty field investigator. “They started to load the women and children in the vehicles.”
And there are other parts of the report that seem downright biblical. In fact, there is one account of a Muslim helping a Yazidi, clearly putting his own life at risk. The account evokes memories of the New Testament Good Samaritan:
The report said militants have abducted "hundreds, if not thousands" of women and children who belong to the ancient Yazidi faith. The extremists also have rounded up Yazidi men and boys before killing them, the London-based group said.
The 26-page report adds to a growing body of evidence outlining the scope and extent of the Islamic State group’s crimes since it began its sweep from Syria across neighboring Iraq in June. The militants have since seized much of northern and western Iraq, and have stretched as far as the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
“The mass killings and abductions have succeeded in terrorizing the entire population in northern Iraq leading thousands to flee in fear for their lives,” says a press release announcing the report.