MESOP NEWS : As ISIS progresses in western Syria, Ismaili minority fears similar fate as Yezidis

February 28, 2016Syria – ARA News – HAMA – Militant fighters of the Islamic State (ISIS) have made new gains near the city of Salamiya in Syria’s western Hama province. ISIS militants have captured several villages in the countryside of Salamiya–main bastion for Syria’s Ismaili minority group.

“Subsequent to clashes with Syrian army troops, ISIS fighters took control of a number of villages in the area, including Taiba and Salm,” rights activist Edib Barazi told ARA News in Hama.

“The recent progress by ISIS militants has raised concerns among members of the Ismaili minority in Salamiya,” Barazi said. “People are afraid of facing a similar fate as Yezidi Kurds of Iraq if ISIS takes over Salamiya city.”ISIS leadership issued a statement on Saturday, warning the Ismailis to surrender “or face the justice of Allah”.The extremist group considers religious minorities like the Ismailis, Yezidis and Druzes as apostates.Speaking to ARA News in Salamiya, Ismaili cleric Haidar al-Saleh said: “We are a peaceful minority and we had taken a neutral position towards the ongoing conflict in Syria.”

“The Ismailis try to avoid clashes with any armed group,” he said. “We are aware of the ongoing progress by ISIS in the countryside of Salamiya, and our community is highly concerned about its fate in case this radical group took over the city.” The Ismaili cleric appealed to the international community to intervene and protect his community against possible atrocities by ISIS.“With ISIS advance in Hama province, local minorities remember images from the ISIS atrocities against the Yezidi Kurds. We hope this nightmare won’t come true,” al-Saleh told ARA News.

In August 2014, ISIS extremists had taken control of the Yezidi Shingal district in northern Iraq, causing a mass displacement of nearly 400,000 people. Tens of thousands of Yezidi Kurds remained trapped in Mount Sinjar, suffering mass killings, kidnappings and rape at the hands of ISIS militants. Also, more than 3000 Yezidi girls have been taken by the radical group as sex slaves. The Kurdish Peshmerga troops regained control of the Yezidi Shingal region in November of 2015, after fierce battles against ISIS. The Kurdish forces have recently discovered more than five mass graves in the Yezidi region, where hundreds of Yezidi civilians have been summarily executed and buried by ISIS jihadis.    Reporting by: Jean Janie