THE pain and trauma were etched on the faces of Mount Gambier’s Yazidi community when they came together at City Hall yesterday to commemorate the night they were attacked by Islamic State militants.
Just hours after midnight on August 3, 2014, members of ISIS invaded a number of villages in northern Iraq, brutally murdering and kidnapping members of the Yazidi community.
Many were forced to run for their lives, fleeing to the mountains to seek refuge where some were left without food and water for weeks.
Women and children who were kidnapped were subjected to torture, rape and traded as sex slaves.
In what can only be described as an act of extreme terror, the inhumane persecution left thousands dead and many more with both physical, mental and emotional scars.
Yesterday, the region’s small tight-knit Yazidi community shared their stories of grief six years on and remembered lost loved ones and those still held in captivity or whose whereabouts remains unknown.
Wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the date of the horrific event, Barazan Zandnan addressed the crowd, describing the night of the attack the “darkest ever”.
“ ISIS killed more than 3000 Yazidis and kidnapped more than 5000 women, elderly, youth and children,” he said.
“The reason for all this killing and displacement that took place against us is only because we are Yazidis and refuse to follow the religion of Islam.
“They did not and will not be able to change our identity, whatever they do to us.”
Confined to a wheel-chair, Adolah Abbaso reflected on the harrowing experience, which led to her being imprisoned by ISIS for over five years.
She was only freed when her son was given the opportunity to pay money for her release.
“When they handed me over, they threw me out of their car and drove over me,” Ms Abbaso said.
“Since then I cannot walk and now I am in a wheelchair.
“Some of my family members are still in ISIS captivity.”
The Yazidi community expressed their appreciation and gratitude to Mount Gambier for embracing them as members of the community, however Ms Abbaso pleaded with the Federal Government to help return their loved ones.
“They took away from me my soul and my happiness, my daughters and my sons,” she said of ISIS.
“Today, I want to ask the Australian government to please support the return of the kidnapped Yazidis.”
Despite all the killing, displacement and torture, Mr Zandnan said Yazidis have been provided with no assistance from the Iraqi Government.
“There is no one to protect us and build a Sinjar again in Iraq, where all politicians have become thieves and those in authority are filling their pockets instead of providing help to the poor Yazidis,” he said.