Intro: Turned into sex slaves and sold as wives to jihadists, the Yazidi women are facing abuse that has become one of the catastrophic humanitarian crises of present times.
A historically misunderstood group, Iraq’s Yazidi people (Kurdish speaking religious minority in northern Syria and Iraq), who follow a religion that is neither Christian nor Muslim, have witnessed the most horrible ethnic cleansing, oppression and forceful extermination at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists. But bearing the worst brunt, after the Islamic state’s takeover of northern Iraq are the Yazidi women.
Who are Yazidis and why are they being attacked?
According to global estimates, close to 700,000 Yazidi people live around the world, with the vast majority of them concentrated in northern Iraq, in and around Sinjar. Yazidis are predominantly ethnically Kurdish, and have been bearing the brunt for keeping alive their religion for centuries, despite many years of oppression and threatened extermination.
Turned into sex slaves and sold as wives to jihadists, the women are facing abuse that has become one of the catastrophic humanitarian crises of present times. The Iraqi doctors who have been treating them say the abuse is often beyond anything they have seen.
The plight of the women is shocking and horrifying, as reported by Niqash, a publication focusing on Iraqi issues. As reported by the publication, the doctors working in and around Mosul, the largest city in Iraq under Islamic State control, say Yazidis are among the most abused of those facing extinction at the hands of the terrorist group.
“It is a public, collective act of rape,” said one doctor, who remained anonymous for fear of retribution from Islamic State terrorists. “I treated about ten women and I was stunned to find one who was just 13 years old. Her mental and physical health was very bad,” he noted.
Another doctor in Mosul told the story of “Layla,” a Yazidi girl, in great detail. Layla was not a sex slave, but was married off to a jihadist, who forced her to convert to Islam and was physically abusive. It was only when her Arab neighbors noticed her deterioration, that one woman requested her husband to let her travel to Mosul for medical treatment. He, though acquiesced, made an Islamic State jihadist accompany the women.
The doctor who treated Layla said she looked “pale and was suffering from physical and psychological pain. He said, Layla told him that compared to other women who were beaten daily for not yielding to the demands of the IS group member, she considered her condition better.
It was also revealed by the publication that the few women that have escaped tell of a miserable existence in terrorist-run-brothels, in which the jihadists force themselves by the dozen on the women, some barely adolescents. The brothels they say are often run by women, the wives of Islamic State jihadists or recruit to the Islamic State themselves. While the number of Yazidis being subjected to this abuse remains unknown, it is estimated that it may be in the thousands. According to a recent report hundreds of Yazidi women have been abducted in individual attacks on towns.
Witnesses in the town of Sinjar say Al Qaeda-inspired Islamic State fighters separated the younger women from the rest of the local population and most were shunted off in buses or trucks. This attempt was to co-opt them into service as the wives of fighters. So far, up to 3,000 women and girls have been kidnapped by the jihadis in the north of the country in just a fortnight-and hundreds of men who refuse to convert have been shot dead.
The kidnappings appear to have happened in villages where residents took up arms against IS-and the women are being held separately from the men in IS-controlled Tal Afar, east of Mount Sinjar.
U.S. President Barack Obama to contain the crisis had authorized air strikes in Iraq in August this year, citing the duty to prevent an impending genocide of Yazidis at the hands of IS militants after they overran a vast swathe of northern Iraq.
The air strikes helped Kurdish forces turn the tide against IS in the north and relieved some of the pressure on Sinjar so that a corridor could be opened to evacuate thousands of Yazidis from the mountain.
However, the Sinjar mountain is still under threat, and the air strikes have not prevented IS from gaining ground elsewhere in Iraq as well as neighbouring Syria, where they have been attacking the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab.