However, many Yazidis are expected to vote in favour of joining Kurdistan's regional government.

 

Al Jazeera spoke to several Yazidis living in the Sinjar region near the two villages that were attacked.

 

"The bombings were very sad, we were attacked just because we are Yazidi," says Arab Khider Shingali.

 

Shingali, 52, a former head of the Kurdish cultural centre of Mosul, lost two relatives in the attack.

 

"There have been many attacks on us in the past and... now we just feel we are being attacked again."

 

"[The attack] is because Yazidis want to go with Kurdistan and the terrorists don't want it to happen."

 

'Completely destroyed'

 

The Yazidis, who are primarily Kurdish, follow a pre-Islamic faith which instills belief in God the creator and respects the Biblical and Quranic prophets.

 

"It is wrong to kill people on the basis of religion, it is terrorism"

Shukry Rasheed, president of Yazidi cultural centre

The main focus of their worship is Malak Taus, the chief of the archangels.

 

Because Malak Taus is sometimes wrongly identified as Satan, the Yazidis have been branded devil worshippers, and suffered intermittent persecution as a result.

 

Following the bombing, members of the Yazidi community raised funds and collected clothes for those affected, rushed to donate blood to survivors in local hospitals and even wore black patches on their clothes to commemorate the dead.

 

Shukry Rasheed, 33, president of a Yazidi cultural centre in Dohuk, said he felt "completely destroyed" by what had happened.

 

"It was a huge shock, but we want people to know that we are not a bad religion," he explained.

 

"It is wrong to kill people on the basis of religion, it is terrorism."

 

Now there are fears that the forthcoming winter could prove deadly for survivors.

 

Many houses were completely destroyed in the blasts and survivors, locals say, are left without adequate shelter.

 

"We want human rights groups and the Iraqi government to speak up on this and help us. In a few months the cold could wipe people out," Rasheed adds.

 

Protection

 

The two villages hit in the blasts, Qataniyah and Adnaniyah, are so-called "collective towns", formed after the residents' original homes were destroyed in Saddam Hussein's 1988 military campaign against the Kurds.

 

Yazidis also suffer persecution because of
their beliefs [AFP]
Thousands were killed or "disappeared" and up to one million people were displaced in what human rights groups have called an ethnic cleansing campaign aimed at purging Kurdish areas of potential opposition supporters.

 

Many Yazidi villages are now surrounded by majority Arab villages and are near the border with Syria, over which several Yazidis have fled in recent months, fearing persecution.

 

Even before last week's attack, many Yazidis felt Kurdistan would offer them more safety and protection than if they were under Iraqi jurisdiction.

 

"All Yazidi people want to be with Kurdistan now," Shingali says.

 

"People do not want to live with the people responsible for the attacks against them."

 

No peace?

 

Tensions between the region's Arab and Yazidi communities had already worsened following the stoning to death of a young Yazidi woman. She was alleged to have converted to Islam to be with her boyfriend.

 

Many Yazidis reject the allegation that she had converted and that her death was because of that. Instead, they blame tribal customs against sex outside of marriage.

 

Nonetheless, the incident is blamed for several attacks on Yazidis in which 40 people have died, most notably the murder of 23 workers in eastern Mosul in April.

 

Yazidis say tensions between the region's communities, which had previously lived together peacefully, can only worsen as the referendum edges closer.

 

"I think al-Qaeda wanted to make relations between Yazidis and Iraqis worse," says Zuhair Bebo, an English teacher from the village of Khanke and assistant director of a Yazidi cultural centre.

 

"I hope we will stay together, but I don't think we'll be left in peace."