The last night Salam Sheikh could sleep was Sunday. That was before Islamic State fighters marched into his home city of Sinjar, in northern Iraq, defeated 5,000 Kurdish fighters within an hour, and made Cheikh’s family prisoners in their own home.
Now when the 28-year-old calls his three sisters and his disabled mother, more than 6,400 miles away in Iraq, they speak only in whispers. Speak any louder, they fear, and ISIS fighters might overhear and realize they are still in the city.
Sheikh and his family are Yazidi, part of an ancient religion with about 600,000 adherents around the world, mostly in Iraq. About 200 Yazidi families live in the United States, half of them here in Lincoln, Nebraska, where they began settling after the first Gulf War.
The Yazidi, who have been persecuted for centuries, say their cultural memory includes 73 attempted genocides. The Nebraska-based Yazidi fear they are watching the 74th from thousands of miles away.
“It’s worse than the war,” Sheikh says.
See also: Wikipedia entry on the Yazidi