Iraqi Yazidi families who fled the violence in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, are given food at a school where they are taking shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohuk in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, on August 5, 2014
Iraqi Yazidi families who fled the violence in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, are given food at a school where they are taking shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohuk in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, on August 5, 2014 © Safin Hamed - AFP/File
Iraqi Yazidi families who fled the violence in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, are given food at a school where they are taking shelter in the Kurdish city of Dohuk in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, on August 5, 2014
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AFP
Last updated: August 8, 2014

Hunger, jihadists and bees: a tale of survival in Iraqi mountains

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When Fares Sinjari Abu Ivan saw the Iraqi military helicopter dropping the promised supplies, he thought he would have some food to give his mother for the first time in two days.

"But it seems God is angry with us," said the 45-year-old beekeeper, who together with thousands of fellow Yazidis, has been hiding from jihadist fighters in the northern Sinjar mountains.

"The bread we asked for landed in the middle of the beehive farm. Nobody dares to go in because we don't have our usual protective gear," he told AFP by phone.

He said a group of people who were displaced from the Sinjar area when Islamic State (IS) jihadist militants attacked at the weekend had been living in old cave dwellings in one of the range's craggy canyons.

Abu Ivan explained they had been saving their phone batteries as much as possible to communicate with government and other agencies who have promised to rescue them.

"We are exhausted because we are starving," he said. "There is nothing here."

When jihadist fighters approached Sinjar on Saturday, he sent his wife and daughter with one of his brothers on a long march to the relative safety of the city of Dohuk, in neighbouring autonomous Kurdistan.

"But my mother is 80 years old and she can barely walk. She could not be left alone, so we took her up here," the beekeeper said.

The Yazidis are a closed community which follows a 4,000-year-old faith and which the IS refers to as "devil worshippers" due to their unique beliefs and practices.

Their leaders have warned the small minority risks being massacred or starved into extinction.

Abu Ivan explained that some people had attempted to flee on Wednesday but had mixed fortunes.

"We have spoken to some who made it to Turkey but in their flight, they encountered Daash (Islamic State) fighters who cut the road. Some fled, some were killed and others came back to the mountain."

Turkish officials said up to 800 Yazidis who had been stranded after the jihadist attack had made their own way to Turkey since Wednesday.

Fighters from the Turkish Kurdish rebel group PKK said they had managed to evacuate several families to Syria after opening a safe passage.

But the Sinjar range is roughly 60 kilometres (35 miles) long and displaced Yazidis are scattered in little groups.

"Today we had at least one gift from the sky however," Abu Ivan said. "An Iraqi plane saved us, it hit Daash gunmen as they were heading our way, very close to finding us."

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