Appeals mount to save Iraq's Yazidis
Dohuk - Iraqi helicopters dropped supplies on Tuesday to thousands of people hiding from jihadists in desolate mountains, many of them from the Yazidi minority which officials warned risked being massacred or starved into extinction.
A Yazidi lawmaker broke down in tears during a parliament session as she urged the government and the international community to save her community from Islamic State militants who overran the Sinjar region.
"Over the past 48 hours, 30 000 families have been besieged in the Sinjar mountains, with no water and no food," said Vian Dakhil.
"Seventy children have already died of thirst and 30 elderly people have also died," she said.
Dakhil said 500 Yazidi men were killed by IS militants since they took over the town of Sinjar and surrounding villages on Sunday. Their women were enslaved as "war booty", she said.
"We are being slaughtered, our entire religion is being wiped off the face of the earth. I am begging you, in the name of humanity."
The town, near the Syrian border, is a hub for Yazidis, a very closed community that follows an ancient faith rooted in Zoroastrianism and referred to by jihadists as "devil worshippers".
Sinjar was also a temporary home for thousands of displaced people from other minorities, such as Shi'ite Turkmen who had fled the nearby city of Tal Afar when IS launched its offensive on 9 June.
The attack on Sinjar sent thousands of people running from their homes in panic, some of them scurrying into the mountains with no supplies.
"Families who fled the area are in immediate need of urgent assistance, including up to 25 000 children who are now stranded in mountains surrounding Sinjar and are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including drinking water and sanitation services," UNICEF said.