ISIS pressure creates mass Iraq exodus

Thousands of people trudge across a river to escape ISIS (CNN)

IRAQ (CNN) — International pressure is growing on the Iraqi government to bring the country together to stop the advance of ISIS.

The extremist group has taken over large parts of northern Syria, and western and northern Iraq — forcing tens of thousands of people to leave their homes or face death.

They face a harrowing journey to safety.

The scene is almost biblical: a modern-day exodus.

Thousands of people trudge across a river to escape a violent enemy. Most of them move in silence.

On occasion, loved ones separated by war tearfully reunite.

Everyone is fleeing ISIS militants, who many here refer to as Da’ash.

“The bad thing … when Da’ash, you know terrorists, you know Da’ash … they attack us and our neighbors, they are Arab. They are Arab,” said university student and refugee Jamil Jamir. “Since terrorists came, they join them. And actually, they kill us. You understand me?”

Reporter: “People you know?”

Jamir: “Yes people! Our neighbors!”

Many refugees are members of a Kurdish religious minority known as the Yezidis.

Jamir is one of them, and he found his missing cousin here.

“We lost each other! We lost each other! Thanks, God, they arrived!” said Jamir, reuniting with his cousin.

Like many of the other refugees, Jamir and his family fled to Sinjar Mountain more than a week ago after ISIS captured their town.

They spent days camping on the mountain, desperately waiting for air drops of food and water until they escaped by foot on a marathon 15-hour journey to Syria — a journey that claimed lives.

“On the way, two of our brothers, small brothers. What we do? Not enough water and dusty,” said Jamir. “Actually, I felt that I would die. We put on the way. They died.”

Reporter: “Your brothers?”

Jamir: “Yeah.”

Reporter: “Two of your brothers died?”

Jamir: “Yeah, baby.”

A senior Kurdish official there wants foreign governments and organizations to prevent genocide.

“Use your power, through the international law, to save the Yazidi from genocide,” said Kurdistan Democratic Party General Secretary Faizal Mirany.

By the time these refugees reach Iraqi Kurdistan, some are too sick and exhausted to walk.

This family won’t go any farther.

For the 11th night in a row, they will sleep in the open by the banks of the river.

Their dinner: two plates of donated chicken for 12 people.

Their beds: a few scraps of cardboard. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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