This is Barakat, a Yazidi man from Sinjar, Iraq.
On 3rd August 2014, he heard news that ISIS forces were advancing towards them. That night, ISIS started bombing.
“We were terrified and didn’t know what to do. My wife and nine children were with me. The next day the bombing was so heavy and our neighbours were fleeing. We didn’t have a car so we left on foot heading towards the Sinjar Mountains.”
His cousin brought a truck and they joined other Yazidi families in Solakh and stayed there. 11 days later they heard that ISIS were in the area. Within five hours, ISIS had surrounded them. The ISIS leader was wearing a mask, and approached them. He told them that they were infidels and that they should reject their religion and convert to Islam.
“We weren’t scared at first because there were only a few of them and we knew them. They lived in our neighbouring villages. We could never have imagined that they would kill any of us because they were our neighbours. Many of us worked with them and had gone to school with them.
“The ISIS leader said that we had eight hours to convert to Islam or they would kill us.”
The leaders of the Yazidi tribes gathered there told them that anyone who was able to go should leave immediately. They started trying to get everyone onto trucks, especially the elderly, women and children.
When ISIS saw them they started following. They captured the last two trucks which were carrying Barakat’s mother, two of his daughters, his cousin and 40 other people. The ISIS forces rounded them up and took them. Barakat says
“The other Yazidis kept going towards the mountains but I couldn’t leave my mother, my daughters, my cousin or the rest of my people so I decided to stay with some others to try to free them defend our villages.”
“When we got close to them we heard a lot of loud cries coming from them. We tried to call my cousin. All he could say was ‘we are finished, this is the end for us.’”
“By now there were around 150 of us who had taken up arms and we tried to move towards the mountains. It was the middle of the night. Along the road we could see the ISIS vehicles so we had to lay low and hide. There were so many dead bodies which we couldn’t help stepping on because it was so dark and we couldn’t see properly.
“When it was clear we started walking towards the mountains where all the other Yazidis were going. We reached a valley before the mountains and there were hundreds and hundreds of families fleeing. They were holding torches because it was such a dark night, and it looked like a sea of lights from a distance.
“In the early hours of the morning we reached the bottom of the mountains. We were all exhausted and scared. We were living a horrifying nightmare. We couldn’t believe what was happening to us, and we couldn’t comprehend the situation we were in or how it was possible for anyone to do something like this in this day and age.
“By this time there were around 20,000 people on foot at the bottom of Sinjar. I found my wife and seven children; the youngest was nine months old. We had no news of my two daughters or mother.
“We stayed close to the mountains hoping that this would be the end and that we would be able to go back to our villages, but then ISIS started bombing us.
“We all started running, terrified, to the mountains and there were bombs falling all around us. People were being killed and blown to pieces everywhere. We had to keep going. I will never forget the screams which were so loud and the terrified cries of the wounded. There was chaos and confusion everywhere.
“I was holding my two year old son and my wife was carrying our nine month old baby in her arms as we ran and our other children were running with us. We were frightened for our lives.
“As we were climbing the mountains, lots of people fell off the cliffs and died. Men, women and children. We couldn’t stop to bury them, we just had to move on.
“When we reached the top of the mountains where it was safe, we only had 15 small bottles of water so we had to drink using the lids of the bottles so we wouldn’t run out. We finally reached a deserted military post where we stayed for four days. We found some sheep in the mountains which we ate. I don’t think we would have survived otherwise.
“Some freedom fighters came and urged us to move on to Dohuk or Erbil. I couldn’t leave without doing something to try to save my daughters and mother. After a few days these freedom fighters told us that they wanted to free some Yazidi families from ISIS. I hoped my daughters and mother would be among them and went to help. Hundreds of families were freed but my daughters and mother weren’t there.
“I stayed for five months, every day trying to find and free my daughters and mother, but I have never seen them since. I know in my heart that they are alive and hope and pray that somehow I will see them again. I hope that this pain I carry in my heart will end one day.”
Barakat is one of the internally displaced people living in a small camp that Samara’s Aid Appeal has been supporting around Dohuk with clothes, hygiene items, bedding, shoes and food.
To find out how you can collect aid in your community to help families and people in need of humanitarian assistance fill out your details here www.samarasaidappeal.org/collectors