Residents of a besieged Iraqi town say they have prepared graves for their families and will kill their wives and children if the city falls to the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists.
The Shia Turkmen of Amerli, a town in the north of Iraq, are resisting ISIL terrorists who have surrounded them for two months. On Saturday, the Iraqi army and militiamen launched an operation to break the siege, but the fate of those inside still hangs in the balance.
Residents said that they would rather kill themselves than fall into the hands of the ISIL group, which has been accused of murdering those from religious minorities.
"In every three to four houses we have dug graves. If the ISIL storms our town everyone will be killing their wives and children and they will bury them," says Mehdi, a government employee reached by phone in Amerli.
Mehdi, who asked for his real name to be withheld, said their wives had agreed they would rather die than be taken captive by the group. "They say ‘we don’t want to end up in the hands of the ISIL, being enslaved like those in Sinjar mountain….We don’t want the ISIL to lay their hands on us.’”
Women who have been airlifted from Amerli to Baghdad this week said the only question among their female relatives was whether they would have someone shoot them or do it themselves.
"All the women will kill themselves – either shoot themselves or use kerosene and burn themselves to death," said Fatima Qassim, a beauty salon owner from Amerli.
Fatima said her brother was fighting to defend the town and had remained behind with his wife and six children.
"He put eight bullets in his rifle and he said if ISIL enters the town then I will kill my children one by one and then I will kill my wife and myself."
The United Nations last week said the situation in Amerli was desperate and required immediate action to prevent a possible massacre.
“More than 40 of the villages surrounding Amerli have fallen to the Islamic State. If the town falls it will be pure genocide," says Torhan al-Mufti, the outgoing minister of communications.
Despite sporadic airlifts by the Iraqi army to rescue residents, between 15,000 to 20,000 people remain in Amerli. Two months under siege has left it short of food and wells are running dry.
An estimated 2,000 men, many of them famers or civil servants, have dug trenches and repelled three assaults.