Yazidi teenager escaped Islamic State, appeals for help for sex slaves

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 09, 2016 2:33 PM

By Magdalena Mis

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - It was a "black morning" two years ago when Islamic State militants seized the Yazidi town of Sinjar in northwest Iraq, abducting thousands of civilians including a 15-year-old girl and 27 members of her family.

The teenager, Nihad Barakat Shamo Alawsi, was taken to Syria and then to the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul in northern Iraq, she told an event in London on Wednesday.

"They raped us, they killed our men, they took our babies away from us," Alawsi, now 17, said at the event organized by the UK-based AMAR Foundation, a charity that provides education and healthcare in the Middle East.

"The worst thing was the torture in Mosul. We were beaten and raped continuously for two weeks," she said, speaking through an interpreter. "Girls were taken from their families and raped constantly and then they were handed out to "emirs.""

The Sunni militants captured around 5,000 Yazidi men and women in summer 2014. Some 2,000 have managed to escape or have been smuggled out of Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria, activists say.

Islamic State considers the Yazidis to be devil-worshippers. The ancient Yazidi faith blends elements of Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Islam.

The United Nations says Islamic State still holds an estimated 3,500 people captive in Iraq, the majority of them women and girls from the Yazidi community.

Alawsi said a man who took her as a slave died a few weeks later, and she was sold to another man who already had a wife and another Yazidi sex-slave. He beat and raped her and a month later she became pregnant.

"I thought the child I was carrying was a member of Daesh and would become a Daesh criminal when he grew up," Alawsi said quietly, using a pejorative Arabic name for Islamic State.

Alawsi gave birth to a baby boy, but three months later she managed to escape after the baby's father decided to marry her to his cousin.

"I managed to make a phone call to my family with someone's help, and I managed to escape, but I had to leave the baby behind," she said.

Most of the Yazidi population, numbering around half a million, are displaced in camps in Iraq's northern Kurdistan.

Alawsi now lives in one of the camps with her mother, father and siblings, and works with AMAR, volunteering to come to London to speak of her people's plight. Two of her brothers and two sisters are still held by Islamic State.

"It's not a life, we are not living a life until the rest of our people are released by Daesh," Alawsi said.

"I beg you to help my people, to save them from Daesh, and to free especially the sex slaves, the young girls and children that have been taken."

(Reporting by Magdalena Mis, editing by Tim Pearce. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)