September 17, 2014

ISIS atrocities: Sold into Sex and a Widow at 19

Homeless Yezidis arriving in Kurdistan, escaping from jihadi militants who regard them as 'unbelievers.' Homeless Yezidis arriving in Kurdistan, escaping from jihadi militants who regard them as 'unbelievers.' DUHOK, Kurdistan Region – One day, it was her turn to be sold. Still, of all the hundreds of Yezidi girls and women captured, abused and sold as war booty by Islamic State militants in Iraq, she has to count herself among the fortunate. That is because 19-year-old H. Ali, identifying herself only by her initial and already a widow with a three-year-old child, managed to escape. She lives to tell the tale of her abduction, captivity and abuse by the Islamic State (IS/formerly ISIS) armies. What has emerged from her account – and of the few like her who could tell their stories to Rudaw -- after storming the Yezidi town of Shingal and nearby villages early last month, the militants embarked on a frenzy of killing, looting and abuse. They killed the men, captured the women and separated young girls – some as young as 10 – to hand out or sell as war prize to fighters, their leaders or anyone willing to pay. "When I saw the militants sexually abusing 10 and 12 year old girls, death became a normal thing to me," said Ali, whose village of Girizer near Shingal was overrun by the militants on August 3. Girizer was the site of the biggest massacre of Yezidis by the IS, whose strict religious code regards non-Muslim women as war loot and believes that girls as young as nine are fit for marriage. "They separated the women and children from the men," Ali recounted about the day the Islamists stormed her village. "They tied the men's hands behind their backs, lay them down on the ground and killed them all. "They took my husband, my father-in-law and my brother-in-law before my own eyes and they killed them together," said Ali, who is now in Duhok. Together with many other Yezidi women and children she was force-marched to the village of Ajaj, and then taken to the IS stronghold of Mosul. En route, several women and children were killed by the militants, she said. When they arrived in Mosul, elderly women and young girls were once again separated. "That is where I lost sight of my mother-in-law," she recalled. "They put us in a large house and said, 'those of here will have to get married,'" Ali continued, tears trickling down her cheeks at this part of her tragedy. "They would buy and sell us several times a day," she said of Iraqi and foreign militants who visited the house. "At least 10 times a day they would come into the house and take whoever they wanted. They would mostly take the virgin girls." Ali said that some girls were taken for a day or two and returned after unending beatings and abuse. "Three girls killed themselves before my own eyes," Ali said of the time whe was held captive in Mosul. "They strangled themselves with their headscarves. They did this to escape the rape. "One militant sold a girl to his driver," she remembered. "I saw some Turkish and Syrian Arabs among the militants who came to buy the women. Whenever a woman didn't return after two days I knew she would never come back. Some of the militants even came to the house with wedding dresses." The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said this weekend that IS militants in Iraq have sold or handed out hundreds of Yezidi women. The group said it had documented evidence that 27 of the captured Yezdi girls had been "sold and married" to fighters in Aleppo, Raqqa and Al-Hassakah. It said the girls were sold for $1,000 each.

In addition, "in recent weeks, some 300 women and girls of the Yezidi faith who were abducted in Iraq have been distributed as spoils of war to fighters from the Islamic State," SOHR said. All this, Ali experienced firsthand. After hesitating and trying to gain control of her tears and emotions, she continued with the hardest part of her story. "No need to be shy; I was sold too," she uttered, gripping the emotions welling behind the memory. "They took me to a nearby house, where my Syrian buyer came to pick me up." Her new master told her that there was no hope of reuniting with her family, declaring that "all of Kurdistan and Iraq is under our control." "He told me, 'Forget about your family. But here is a phone, call your family and tell them that you are safe but will not return to them.'" Her chance for escape came unexpectedly. And of the many tales of Arab neighbors collaborating with the militants against the Yezidis, Ali's story is different. "It was midnight and my child was very thirsty. I knocked on the door of the room where I was locked up and asked for water, but no one answered," she said, recalling she forced open the door. "The house was very quiet, but I saw three men sleeping there. I quietly slipped out of the house. I didn't know where to go. For a while I walked among the hills until I came upon an Arab house. I went in and told them what happened to me," she recounted. "I said to the family, 'Please protect me and I will give you later any amount of money you want,' The Arab man was very kind. The next day he put me in his car and at every IS checkpoint they asked who I was and he answered, 'She is my wife,' until we came close to a Peshmerga checkpoint." From there Ali walked to the Kurdish Peshmergas who picked her up and took her to the Shariya refugee camp in Duhok. "I just hope that no IS militant -- or their supporters -- remains alive on this earth," Ali wished.

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