Tens of thousands of Yazidis have fled from Sinjar, Iraq -- a place they’ve called home for thousands of years -- in wake of the Islamic State’s continued expansion.
The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking ethnoreligious group that practices an ancient religion linked to Zoroastrianism. The Kurdish group saw many of their homes and towns crushed by Sadaam Hussein in the past, and are running for their lives once again with arrival of the Islamic State.
The Islamic State branded the Yazidis heretics upon entering Sinjar, and ordered them to convert to their brand of radical Islam or die. When many members of the Yazidi community refused, they were slaughtered.
Reuters spoke with numerous people of the Yazidi community recently, and they told horror stories of the mass executions carried out by Islamic State militants.
"We did not understand. Then they started to put people in those holes, those people were alive," a former grocery store owner named Ali said. "After a while we heard gunfire. I can't forget that scene. Women, children, crying for help. We had to run for our lives, there was nothing to be done for them."
A 22-year-old Yazidi named Hassan recalled one particularly gruesome execution.
"They tied the hands of one woman to the back of a car and her legs to another car and they split her into two," he said. "Have you seen anything like this? This is all because she is not Muslim and did not want to be converted. We barely made it."
18-year-old Sinjar resident Amina Kalo told the BBC that she and her fellow Yazidis would “prefer to die” before they bow to the Islamic State or convert to Islam.
Despite a tie to the region dating back thousands of years, many Yazidis have given up on Iraq. All they want now is to leave.
“They put women and children under the ground. They were alive. I still hear their screams,” said Dawud Hassan. "Iraq is finished for me. We had houses, shops, they all burnt our things. We have nothing. We want to cross to Turkey…We will not stay there, we want to go to Europe."