Yazidis released by the Islamic State (IS) militant group in Iraq after six months of captivity have spoken about their kidnapping ordeal with RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq.
Three elderly Yazidis spoke to Radio Free Iraq (RFI) on January 19 from temporary shelters in the town of Badri, in Dohuk province, and Lalish in Nineveh province, where some of the released Yazidis are currently housed by Iraqi authorities.
Tens of thousands of the Yazidi religious minority fled in August 2014 when IS captured Sinjar in Iraq. However, Islamic State gunmen took hundreds -- the exact figure is unknown -- of Yazidis, which it considers apostates, captive. On January 18, IS suddenly released upward of 200 of the Yazidi captives, most of them elderly and sick individuals, transporting them from the northern town of Tal Afar and dropping them off at a bridge near the regional capital Irbil.
The commander of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk in northern Iraq, Shirko Fatih, said that most of the released Yazidi captives were in poor health and showed signs of abuse and neglect.
The released Yazidis that RFI spoke to described how Islamic State militants had killed captives, rounded up Yazidi girls and women, and stole property.
Sheme Salih, a 65-year-old Yazidi woman, told RFI that IS extremists had captured her and her fellow Yazidis and confined the men.
"We had been at their mercy since six months ago. They took girls and children away. We were not allowed to go out. Even now I do not know their names, they were members of Daesh [an Arabic term for IS]," Salih said.
Khirzi Naif, a 75-year-old Yazidi man who had been held captive by Islamic State militants said that the extremist group had killed "anyone who opposed their orders."
"They would kill any Yazidi who they were unhappy with," Naif said.
Like Salih, Naif reported that IS radicals had rounded up Yazidi girls and women and taken them away.
"I swear by God that they were killing people and taking girls and women away. Once I saw them rounding up 500 girls and taking them away," Naif told RFI.
There have been numerous reports -- including eyewitness testimonies from those who escaped -- that Islamic State gunmen had captured Yazidi girls and women and sold them into slavery.
A number of Yazidi girls and women who managed to escape from the Islamic State group have said they were raped, tortured, beaten and forced into marriage and sexual slavery by militants.
Merdin, a 60-year-old Yazidi woman, told RFI that Islamic State militants also took away women who had several children.
"They took women, even those with as many as five or seven children, away; they took girls and killed men," Merdin said.
Merdin also said that Islamic State militants robbed their Yazidi captives of valuables.
"They stole everyone's money, gold and everything. These people have no God. I swear by Allah that not even infidels have perpetrated the sort of crimes committed by those [from the Islamic State group]," Merdin said.
The motive for the Islamic State group's release of the 200 mostly elderly and infirm Yazidis remains a mystery.
However, according to Peshmerga commander Fatih, the Islamic State group likely found that the group of Yazidis had become too expensive to feed and look after.
Yazidi rights activist Khodr Domli said that the released Yazidis were suffering from a variety of medical problems.
"Some are wounded, some have disabilities and many are suffering from mental and psychological problems," Domli said.
The UK's Channel 4 news quoted Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament, as saying that the Islamic State group "saw that there was no benefit for them in keeping these old people."
-- Joanna Paraszczuk