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Thousands of Iraq's religious minorities flee persecution


08-09-2014 16:49 BJT

Thousands of members of Iraq’s religious minorities have been fleeing persecution from advancing extremists from the Islamic State Sunni insurgent group. Most are from Iraq’s Christian population, or from the Yazidi sect - which is influenced by a number of different faiths. Many have taken refuge inside churches in the city of Erbil, after their hometowns were captured.

"What happened is that our area was hit, three in the area died. We can’t take this anymore, we are being targeted, we don’t want to die, we want to live, we don’t want them to take our land either, this is our right," said Sa'adia, displaced Iraqi.

"Many of my family are still trapped there, why? Why? Why can’t we reach a solution, all my relatives are there, waiting, what have we done to deserve this? They threatened them, either they surrender or they have to pay," displaced Iraqi Joe Hanna said.

The Islamic State Sunni insurgent group has made dramatic advances, expanding from its stronghold of Mosul. In recent weeks, its fighters have captured a string of towns, as well as Iraq’s largest hydroelectric dam and reservoir. That gives the group the potential to flood cities and cut off vital water and electricity supplies.

Ethnic and religious minorities have fled the captured towns, fearing persecution and slaughter. Islamic State fighters are reported to have ordered all residents to convert to Islam or face death. The group has now advanced to within half an hour’s drive of Erbil, where a number of US military advisers are stationed.

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