Escape from Mount Sinjar: Portraits of Yazidis in Exile

After jihadists forced them to flee their homes, members of the religious minority group are trying to begin their lives anew.
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Escape from Mount Sinjar: Portraits of Yazidis in Exile Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters

Last summer, militants from ISIS, the world's most notorious jihadist group, forced thousands of Yazidis—a religious minority in the Middle East—to flee up Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq. Had they stayed, they would have faced certain death or forced conversion to Islam.

Indeed, ISIS reportedly killed more than 500 Yazidis in August, and though a U.S. military operation helped free some of them from the mountain, not everyone escaped.

Since then, thousands of women and girls have been kidnapped by ISIS and forced into sexual slavery. The religious justification for these acts, the jihadist group says, is that Yazidis and their families are "idolators" based on their worship of a fallen angel—Melek Tawwus, or Peacock Angel—one of seven angels that makes up the core of their religious beliefs.

Many women and girls are still missing, but a few have escaped and lived to tell harrowing stories of how they were raped and exploited.

The slideshow above shows portraits of Yazidis at the temple in Lalish, in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq.

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A Yazidi boy poses in front of the Lilash temple in northern Iraq on September 20, 2014. Yazidis have had to flee from ISIS militants, who have killed or sold into slavery many Yazidis as they advanced into northern Iraq. Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters