The Syrian Crisis and Demise of the Yazidi Population

In August 2014, Islamic State fighters captured the city of Sinjar and the villages around it in Iraqi Kurdistan. Thousands of Yazidis fled for their lives.

Yazidis follow their own century-old religion and the Islamic State (“IS”) group considers them as heretics and devil worshippers. As a result, they have captured thousands of Yazidi women, forcing them to be sold as sex slaves in Syria. Over 5,000 Yazidi men were lined up and shot.

The misery and pain that followed for the kidnapped women was unimaginable:

Sabreen and Dilvian, Sabreen’s four-year-old sister, were released after months in captivity. Sabreen “was in the kitchen” when IS first arrived, “they asked to see my father, they took all the men to trucks, we heard a lot of gunfire. The children came in crying, they said all the men are dead.” Their father was never seen again, their mother was sold as a domestic slave to a family in Aleppo, and they were taken to Raqqa, Syria. At Raqqa, they were placed in a three storey house. It was at this house that Sabreen was tortured whilst Dilvian was forced to watch, “they had an electrical machine, they plugged it into the wall. For one hour every day they electrocuted me”. Dilvian noted that she “was crying and begging him to stop but he wouldn’t listen”.

Amnesty International state that hundreds and possibly thousands of girls, some as young as six, have had their lives shattered by sexual violence and sexual slavery in IS captivity. Thousands remain missing. There is still hope that these missing girls will one day be returned to their loved ones.

Kurdish and Iraqi forces are slowly starting to push back IS and re-gain territory once lost. Upon liberation of key towns from IS such as Sinjar, many mass graves have been found. A mass grave of around 80 women was found last year near Sinjar, the women were reported to be aged between 40 to 80. They were slaughtered, deemed by IS to be too old to be used in the sex trade.

I would like to leave you with courageous and inspirational words of Nadia Murad Bassee Taha, a 21-year-old Yazidi girl who survived the massacre of her family and enslavement by IS and addressed the UN Security Council on 16 December 2015:

“It is with great sadness, gratitude and hope that I address the Security Council. As a Yazidi survivor, I am a descendant of one of the world’s oldest religions, which is today threatened with extinction. I am here to talk about the practices against us by what is called the Islamic State/Daesh — trafficking in persons, sexual enslavement of women, recruitment of children in war, displacement and the genocide of our society. I am here to tell the Council my story, of what happened to my society, which has lost hope for life and is now moving into unknown territory. I am also here to tell the Council about the more than 3,400 women and children who have been abducted. I am here to tell the Council about this global terrorist organization, the Islamic State, which is trying to destroy our culture and take away our freedom. I am here to talk about the nightmare that, just overnight, turned the life of an entire community upside-down.

Prior to 3 August 2014, I was living with my family, my brothers and sisters in the pretty, quiet village of Kocho. But then the Islamic State attacked our region, and we found ourselves facing a true genocide. A large number of those forces of evil had come from different States with weapons, equipment and uniforms. Their aim was to eliminate all Yazidi existence under the pretext that — according to them — we were infidels. The Islamic State did not just come to kill us, women and girls, but to take us as war booty and merchandise to be sold in markets for a bit of money, or even for free. Those crimes were not committed without design, they were part of a premeditated policy.

On 15 August, elements from the Islamic State summoned us to the village school. They separated the men from the women and children. I saw them from the second floor of the school as they took away the men and killed them. Six of my brothers were killed, while three survived the mass killing. We, the women and children, were taken by bus from the school to another area. They humiliated us along the way and touched us in a shameful way. They took me to Mosul with more than 150 other Yazidi families. There were thousands of families in a building there, including children who were given away as gifts. One of the men came up to me. He wanted to take me. I looked down at the floor. I was absolutely terrified. When I looked up, I saw a huge man. He was like a monster. I cried out that I was too young and he was huge. He kicked and beat me. A few minutes later, another man came up to me. I was still looking at the floor. I saw that he was a little smaller. I begged for him to take me. I was terribly afraid of the first man. The man who took me asked me to change my religion. I refused. One day, he came and asked me for my hand in what they called “marriage”. I said that I was ill; most women were menstruating because they were so scared. A few days later, this man forced me to get dressed and put on my makeup. Then, on that terrible night, he did it.

He forced me to serve in his military company. He humiliated me daily. He forced me to wear clothes that barely covered my body. I was not able to take any more rape and torture. I decided to flee, but one of the guards stopped me. That night he beat me. He asked me to take my clothes off. He put me in a room with guards, who proceeded to commit their crime until I fainted.

I was finally able to escape three months after my abduction. I currently live in Germany. Thankfully, Germany provided me with the necessary medical attention, for which I thank that country.”

You can find Nadia’s full story on her website and follow her under @NadiaMuradBasee.

by Harry Wright

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