THE WOMAN BE­ING HUNTED BY ISIS

The Is­lamic State is wag­ing a geno­ci­dal war on the Yazidi peo­ple – kid­nap­ping, rap­ing and killing those who do not sub­mit to its ex­trem­ist ideals. Iraqi politi­cian Vian Dakhil’s ef­forts to stand in its way have made her a prime tar­get. ABIGAIL HA­WORTH a

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE -

The black Land Cruiser car­ry­ing Vian Dakhil speeds along a high­way in north­ern Iraq. In­side, the politi­cian presses her cell­phone against her ear. ‘Speak a lit­tle louder if you can,’ she pleads, strug­gling to ex­actly? How many other girls with you?’

Vian, 43, is one of only two politi­cians in Iraq’s par­lia­ment from the coun­try’s Yazidi pop­u­la­tion, an eth­nic and re­li­gious mi­nor­ity hangs up, she ex­plains that her caller was a Yazidi teenager who is cur­rently be­ing about 50 other girls into pickup trucks and were trans­port­ing them to be sold as slaves or brides. She was cry­ing, “Vian, please res­cue us, please res­cue us.”’

Few peo­ple out­side the re­gion had heard of the es­ti­mated 700 000-strong Yazidi group un­til Isis at­tacked their an­ces­tral ter­ri­tory around Mount Sin­jar in the coun­try’s north­west last Au­gust, mas­sacring thou­sands and tak­ing thou­sands more prisoner. Vian raised the alarm, mak­ing im­pas­sioned speeches in Iraq’s par­lia­ment and in Europe call­ing for global ac­tion to al­le­vi­ate her peo­ple’s plight. Her ef­forts have made her a hero to her fel­low Yazidis. They have also cat­a­pulted her to the top of the Isis death list. ‘I have re­ceived warn­ings from gov­ern­ment in­tel­li­gence that I am Isis’s most-wanted woman,’ Vian had told me ear­lier. ‘If they cap­ture me, they will ex­e­cute me at once.’

num­ber around 200 000, made global head­lines last sum­mer with the video­taped be­head­ings of Amer­i­can jour­nal­ists James Fo­ley and Steven Sot­loff. But its reign of de­struc­tion in Iraq and neigh­bour­ing Syria be­gan in earnest months be­fore. Around 1.9 mil­lion Iraqis lost their homes as the ji­hadists cap­tured ter­ri­tory in­clud­ing Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city of Mo­sul, only 80km from Vian’s fam­ily home in the cap­i­tal of Iraqi Kur­dis­tan, Er­bil. The group has risen so fast that Ali Khed­ery, a for­mer ad­viser to the US em­bassy in Bagh­dad, re­cently de­scribed it as ‘the al-Qaida that Osama bin Laden only dreamed of build­ing’. The phone call Vian takes in the car is one of sev­eral dis­traught pleas for help she re­ceives on this late Oc­to­ber morn­ing as she tours her be­sieged con­stituency. Since Au­gust, Isis has kid­napped an es­ti­mated 5 000 to 7 000 Yazidi women, ac­cord­ing to UN re­searchers. Treated as malak yamiin (spoils of war or slaves), the women have been sub­jected to mul­ti­ple rapes, tor­ture and forced mar­riages. ‘Isis has also set up slave mar­kets to sell girls as young as 12, and they have taken some calls with cap­tives that at least 70 young Yazidi women have com­mit­ted sui­cide, of­ten by hang­ing them­selves with their head­scarves. ‘In this sit­u­a­tion, I can’t think about the threats against my own life,’ she says. ‘I have to keep do­ing ev­ery­thing I can to stop th­ese bar­baric crimes.’

The slim, auburn-haired politi­cian has cir­cu­lated her pri­vate num­bers so that any them, she tries to de­ter­mine their sit­u­a­tion and lo­ca­tion. Then she re­lays the de­tails to the Iraqi-Kur­dish re­gional gov­ern­ment’s armed forces, the Pesh­merga, sta­tioned at

OP­PO­SITE Yazidi refugees at a camp on the Turkey-Iraq bor­der look on as Vian Dakhil de­parts af­ter de­liv­er­ing sup­plies

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