The Islamic State regards Iraq's Yazidi minority as devil worshippers, so when militants captured the village of Sinjar this weekend, 60-year-old Yazidi farmer Kareem Sido fled to the mountains with thousands of others. What he found there were people dying of thirst in conditions so dire that he risked the trip home, Reuters reports. Up to 40,000 refugees remain on Mount Sinjar, however, surrounded by the extremists who attacked their village and who have a penchant for beheading dissenters. There is little food or water, and though the UN has offered to drop supplies, it hasn't been asked to do so by the Iraqi government. One witness tells the Washington Post that 10 children and one elderly woman died yesterday and seven children Monday; UNICEF believes 40 children have died since fleeing their village Monday night. "We need to get them out. If we don’t, it would be catastrophic," a UNICEF rep tells the Post.
Going home would also spell death: "We would need a miracle to avoid the Islamic State's brutality," says one resident. There are about 308,000 Yazidi in Sinjar’s district; a minority sect of the Kurds, their religion is a combo of ancient Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam. When the Islamic State came to Sinjar on Saturday, 20 Yazidi were killed in a failed defense and 30 more died of unknown causes. Many more fled—the US-trained army fell apart and the Kurdish pershmerga, mobilized to take their place, ran away "without shooting a bullet," one Sinjar resident tells Reuters. The Christian Science Monitor has this primer on the Yazidi people.