Yazidis who escaped from Islamic State captivity able to return home

Yazidi women and children who were captured by Islamic State when the militant group swept through northern Iraq have been able to return to their homeland.

The families were taken by IS militants nearly five years ago when the group subjected the Yazidi people to what the United Nations has recognised as genocide.

The women and their 18 children crossed into Iraq from Syria on Thursday and were received at the border town of Sinuni on Friday evening, according to officials.

Pictures show people cheering as as they arrived and several of the children making V-signs with their fingers.

One of the youngsters, 14-year-old Jihan Khiro, told a TV crew: “Thanks to almighty God, we have come to Sinjar and we have seen our relatives, who treated us well.”

About 3,000 Yazidis are still missing after IS ravaged their communities in the Sinjar region of northwest Iraq in 2014.

Thousand more were killed, raped and enslaved.

A pause in fighting on the front line at Baghouz, the last sliver of territory still held by IS fighters, had raised hopes that any Yazidis helped captive would be able to escape.

But authorities say only a handful of the hundreds of men, women and children who have fled Baghouz in the last few weeks have been identified as Yazidi.

The 21 women and children were met by officials from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) office which helps return missing Yazidis.

:: How is the reconstruction of Iraq going?

Officials said the office had helped in efforts to bring the group back home.

Yazidis are a distinct group of people who practise a religion that has its roots in Sufism and Zoroastrianism.

The plight of the Yazidis prompted Western powers to intervene in the battle against IS in Iraq, with initial aid drops to refugees fleeing the fighting being replaced by airstrikes against militants.

The US-led coalition which went on to drive IS back to the pocket of land it now occupies in east Syria was formed in the months afterwards.

:: What happened to the war in Syria?

The Kurdish-led and US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces have now started what they hope is their final assault on Baghouz to defeat IS.

The majority of Yazidis who fled the Sinjar area in terror as IS stormed the town have yet to return, and remain in refugee camps.

Many are afraid to return home because of the extent of the trauma they went through.

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