Ex-IS sex slave fear­ful for women left be­hind

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Haifa, an Iraqi Yazidi, held up her fingers to show the num­ber of fight­ers from the Is­lamic State ji­hadist group who had bought and sold her for sex dur­ing her more than two years in cap­tiv­ity. With an Iraqi cam­paign now in full swing to wrest back con­trol of Mosul from IS, the Yazidis are fear­ful for as many as thou­sands of mem­bers of their com­mu­nity still in ji­hadist hands in the city. “There were seven,” Haifa said, in­clud­ing men from Egypt, Morocco and a Pales­tinian.

Haifa, 36, and her fam­ily were among thou­sands of mem­bers of the Yazidi mi­nor­ity shown no mercy by IS when it swept through ar­eas north and west of the Iraqi cap­i­tal in 2014.The Yazidis are nei­ther Mus­lims nor Arabs, and the Kur­dish-speak­ing com­mu­nity fol­lows a unique faith de­spised by the Sunni ji­hadists. As the ex­trem­ists ad­vanced, they was sin­gled out for es­pe­cially cruel per­se­cu­tion in a cam­paign of vi­o­lence and kid­nap­ping which the United Na­tions has branded a geno­cide.

Men were gunned down and thou­sands of women-in­clud­ing Haifa and her younger sis­ter-were taken as sex slaves. “There was a place like a mar­ket where they put all the Yazidi women, and the fight­ers came and bought them,” Haifa told AFP, ask­ing for a pseu­do­nym to be used. “One fighter bought 21 women at once.”

She was taken from her home re­gion of Sin­jar to the ji­hadist’s Iraqi strong­hold of Mosul be­fore be­ing trans­ported to their Syr­ian bas­tion Raqa. “They dealt with us in a re­ally harsh way. They did very bad things to us,” she said. Twice Haifa tried but failed to es­cape. Just a few days ago, she fi­nally man­aged to run away. She put her free­dom down to the help of “good peo­ple” but gave no more de­tails. Some Yazidi women who have man­aged to get away from IS have es­caped, oth­ers have had their free­dom bought.

Thou­sands re­main

Now, as Iraqi forces push into Mosul as part of a ma­jor op­er­a­tion to even­tu­ally oust IS from the coun­try, the hope for the dev­as­tated Yazidi com­mu­nity is that more can be lib­er­ated. It is Hus­sein Al-Qaidi’s job to help track them down.

From an anony­mous two-storey build­ing in the city of Dohuk in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan, he runs an “Of­fice for Kid­napped Af­fairs” funded by the lo­cal Kur­dish au­thor­i­ties. Orig­i­nally over 6,000 Yazidis-men, women and chil­dren-were seized by IS and now some 3,000 re­main in ji­hadist hands, he said. So far only a few Yazidis have been freed as the se­cu­rity forces push their as­sault on Mosul.

As dur­ing pre­vi­ous op­er­a­tions to cap­ture cities from the ji­hadists, IS fight­ers are be­lieved to take their Yazidi cap­tives with them as they re­treat. But now Iraqi forces have cut the last re­main­ing route from Mosul to IS-con­trolled ter­ri­tory in Syria-leav­ing the city sur­rounded. Qaidi says there could be thou­sands of Yazidis left in Mosul-and hopes that even­tu­ally the com­mu­nity will be able to re­build.—

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