In the summer of 2014, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) conducted a violent campaign against civilians in northern Iraq, in particular targeting ethnic and religious minorities. In less than three months, IS decimated millennia-old communities, driving more than 800,000 people from their homes, kidnapping thousands, and killing hundreds, if not thousands, of people. In September 2015, Naomi Kikoler, deputy director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, and photojournalist Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin visited the region, documenting atrocities and interviewing displaced persons. Their findings, photographs, and videos present compelling evidence of present-day terror. Read more.
The Islamic State Sows Terror
As the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) has rampaged through northern Iraq, it has capitalized on fear. Fear of attack, fear of kidnapping, fear of death—all have terrorized residents of the region. Fear drove people from their homes and helped IS control the areas it occupies.
Forced from Their Homes
Many of the people targeted by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) had lived in the same areas all their lives; in many cases, their families had been there for centuries. Overnight, they were driven from their homes and villages by IS, forced to flee their businesses, their houses of worship, their families and friends, the social fabric of their lives. Clutching only their most essential possessions, clinging to families that, for some, had been splintered by kidnappings and killings, the fleeing Iraqis have moved from place to place in search of safe haven.
Communities—and People—Are Gone
The plight of the Iraqi minorities was a tragedy on multiple levels. In at least one case, hundreds of residents of a village were killed by fighters of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). But in many other cases, people were driven from their homes, their businesses, their friends, and their houses of worship and forced to begin again. In effect, their cultures and communities were uprooted.
Clinging to Identity
Practically overnight, comfortable lives came to an end, torn irrevocably. Uprooted from their homes, businesses, and communities, the people of northern Iraq have found themselves living in horrible, strange conditions, trying to make the best of a world that has been changed by mass violence.