Iraq's sectarian strife engulfs minority Yazidis
Yazidis call for government protection, and there are fears of reprisal attacks after religiously motivated killings.
Sectarian tensions have flared up in northern Iraq following the killings on Sunday of 23 members of the Yazidi religious minority, allegedly by Sunni Muslims. The attack near Mosul appears to have been sparked by intolerance of religious intermarriage.Skip to next paragraph
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Agence France-Presse reports that local police say gunmen stopped a bus carrying workers from a textile factory home to the town of Bashika on Sunday, and ordered all Christians to get off the bus. The gunmen then drove the bus to eastern Mosul and killed 23 Yazidi passengers.
A police spokesman for Ninevah province, of which Mosul is the provincial capital, said the executions were in response to the killing two weeks ago of a Yazidi woman who had recently converted to Islam.
The woman had fallen in love with a [Sunni] Muslim man, then converted to Islam and ran off with him, said police spokesman Abdul-Karim Khalaf. Her relatives disapproved of the match and dragged her back to Bashika, where she was stoned to death, he said.
According to AFP, a grainy video showing what appeared to be the Yazidi woman's death was distributed to Iraqi websites in recent weeks, although its authenticity couldn't be confirmed.
The New York Times reports that following the woman's death, police issued a warrant for the arrest of her killers, while Sunnis called for the gunmen to be turned over to them. In one Yazidi town near Mosul, leaflets were distributed saying: "Unless you turn them over, we will never let any Yezidi breathe the air," the Times reports.
The Washington Post writes it's not the first time that a romantic relationship between Muslims and Yazidis sparked violence. Four months ago, the Post reports, Muslims set fire to homes in another Yazidi-majority village near Mosul after a Muslim woman and Yazidi man eloped, according to Mohammed Abdul Aziz al-Jabouri, the deputy police chief in Mosul. Mr. Jabouri also said that the suspected killers in the recent incident were "probably" members of Al Qaeda in Iraq, saying they "don't know the language of negotiaion" and "they only know the language of weapons." The Post also suggests that reprisal attacks from Yazidis against Muslims may be on the horizon.
"We are expecting a strong violence against the Muslims who live in Beshiqa," [Uday Crus, a reporter for a local Yazidi newspaper] said. "Our community is tribal. That means we should take vengeance on the people who committed this terrible tragedy."
The Associated Press reports that following the killings on Sunday, angry Yazidis took to the streets in Bashika, a town that is comprised of 80 percent Yazidis, 15 percent Christians, and 5 percent Muslims. The AP says Muslims in the town locked themselves in their houses for fear of being attacked in retribution, while police set up extra checkpoints throughout the town.