Yazidi women recount sex slavery trauma
The Yazidi religious minority community in Iraq says 3,500 of its women and girls are still being held by the so-called Islamic State (IS), many being used as sex slaves. A few have managed to escape and here tell their harrowing stories.
Women of Iraq’s Yazidi community, a frequent target of Islamic State terrorists revealed their traumatic encounter with IS militants during and after the siege of Mount Sinjar in August.
“There were 20 of them, with long beards and weapons. They said: ‘You’re coming to Mosul.’ We refused. Then they hit us and dragged us to their cars,” an 18-year old woman identifying herself as ‘Hannan’ told the BBC.
“Some of us tried to commit suicide, so they took away anything we might use to kill ourselves.”
Yazidi women have often been kidnapped and used as sex slaves for IS militants after being forced to convert to Islam. One video released in November shows IS men haggling in an apparent "slave market" over Yazidi girls. One woman, Khama, confirmed the existence of such a market.
“They put us up for sale. Many groups of fighters came to buy. Whatever we did, crying, begging made no difference,” Khama said. “An Islamic State sheikh took the money. It wasn’t much, 12 U.S. dollars and said 'this is your price.’”
“There was one 11-yearold girl. They beat her a lot. They gave her to one fighter and then to another one from Mosul,” Janar said. “We heard that she killed herself later in Mosul.”
The figure of 3,500 women and girls still in captivity is not a rough estimate. A Yazidi committee has names of all the missing. Of those who have returned, some are pregnant.
The Yazidis are deeply conservative. They have faced genocide. Even after the credible reports of mass killings and forced conversions, what happened to the women remains perhaps the most traumatic event.
So far, a total of some 400 women and girls have managed to escape. Occasionally, a woman still turns up at one of the camps in northern Iraq, terrified and exhausted, a victim of slavery in the 21st century.
People in the camps seem stunned, shocked. They wait for those left behind, knowing there is little chance they will be rescued.