All posts by grace

Islamic State Strikes Again: Sex Slavery

Devastating humanitarian crises occur all over the world daily and often fly under the radar. Particularly in areas of the middle east where societies fall far beneath their dictatorial governments, citizens and minorities lack the help and support they need. It is important for the United States to know that in August of 2014, as ISIS conquered large parts of the Sinjar area of northern Iraq, it targeted hundreds of thousands of Yazidis for extermination, executing hundreds of the men and kidnapping them for forced labor. As they advanced through huge swathes of Syria and Iraq, Islamic State commanders ridded their territories of all religious minorities that would compromise their vision of a new Caliphate, ruled by Sharia law and untainted by the infidel. The Yazidis are neither Muslim nor Christian but worship a peacock god which, in the eyes of the Islamic State group (IS), make them satanists and a valid target for extermination. Among the mass killings, thousands of women and children were detained, prompting President Obama to warn of an unfolding genocide. After detaining the Yazidis, the Islamic State systematically separated young women and teenage girls from their families. It didn’t matter if the women were married, had kids or siblings. Nearly 7,000 Yazidi women and children were captured by ISIS fighters according to U.N. Investigators. Many of the women were turned into sex slaves for the militants. Woman who were later interviewed by the Human Rights Watch stated that many of the girls were are young as 12 or 13 years old. It remains the duty of the United States, alongside other developed countries, to send aid to the facilities that were put in place to help the victims of this horrendous disaster recover.
Many young woman and girls were able to escape and lived to tell their stories of this horrific humanitarian disaster. Three young Yazidi women escaped from sex slavery and travelled to London, where they told their personal stories. They wouldn’t show their faces to the camera because, they say, they still have friends and family being held by the fanatics, and they fear the repercussions that they might suffer if they reveal their identities. “We were raped up to five times a day,” says 20-year-old Bushra. “One girl went to the bathroom and slit her wrist. When she did not die she cut her throat. The guards wrapped her in a blanket and threw her out with the rubbish.”
Although the thick of this disaster was years ago, there are lasting effects that continue to go unsolved. Bushra admitted that out of her seven brothers, only one managed to escape, and the other six are still missing to this day. She describes the IS commanders as “Between 50 and 70 years old”, and she explains, “I was 15 when I was selected by a commander. He said younger girls are better than older ones. They usually select the most beautiful and youngest girls for themselves.” She admitted that “There was nothing they didn’t do to [her].” The women and young girls were raped, beaten, burnt with cigarettes, sold over and over again, and in many cases murdered.
Traumatised and exhausted from their daily beatings, they nonetheless seized any opportunity to escape captivity. Many people were eventually placed in internally displaced people camps in Iraq, but others were slowly redirected to the UK, and many to Germany where they are given counselling for trauma, rape and abuse. In January 2016, some woman were given the chance to heal and rebuild their lives thanks to the “Special Quotas Project.” The ambitious scheme, launched by the German state of Baden-Württemberg, brought 1,100 women and children — all former ISIS captives, and mostly Yazidis — to the country. The state of Baden-Württemberg set aside approximately $114 million for the pilot program. Psychologist Dr. Jan Kizilhan, a trauma specialist from Germany, interviewed the survivors to gather a sense for how they could be helped. “The youngest girl I examined was 8 years old. And she was about eight months in the hands of ISIS. She was sold 10 times,” Kizilhan said. “That means in the period of eight months she was raped hundreds of times, every day.” The women and girls in the program live in 23 shelters spread across this affluent region of southern Germany. The location of the shelters remains undisclosed in order to protect the survivors from the reaches of ISIS or their sympathizers. The survivors have two-year special visas, with the option to stay in Germany permanently.
According to Yazidi activists, there are still at least 2,400 women and children in the hands of ISIS. Kizilhan has already been planning for their care. He is training Yazidi and Kurdish psychologists who will be able to treat the survivors in Iraq. While the blunt of this crisis occured years ago, thousands of yazidi victims could still benefit from United States investments and aid at this time. As a developed democratic nation, it is both the responsibility and the interest of the United States to express our disapproval in the behaviors of the Islamic State and support the people of the Yazidi minority. Although the situation in Iraq was and still remains dire, Germany’s support has allowed for there to be hope of recovery for thousands of Yazidi woman. As allies to Germany, a nation that shares many social views as the United States, we should lend aid to organizations that they run, not only to support Germany but more importantly to save thousands of Yazidi woman from trauma, captivation, and abuse. With U.S. awareness and involvement, we could prevent similar future humanitarian tragedies from occurring.