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World accused of failing Yazidi women forced into sex slavery

by Zoe Tabary | zoetabary | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 6 June 2018 19:40 GMT

Murad Ismael, co-founder and executive director of Yazidi charity Yazda, poses for a portrait at the Trust Conference at the European Parliament, in Brussels, Belgium, June 6, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Shanshan Chen

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(Updates dateline, adds new quotes, details throughout)

By Zoe Tabary

BRUSSELS, June 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world is failing Yazidi women forced into sex slavery by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, with 3,000 still unaccounted for but little action to find them, according to the head of a charity dedicated to helping survivors.

Murad Ismael said many Yazidi women and girls had been brainwashed or killed in captivity, while those who had managed to escape after years of enslavement and rape were left struggling to survive without an income or identity papers.

"Every inch of these women's body and soul is broken," Ismael, executive director of Yazda, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation's Trust Conference on modern-day slavery at the European Parliament on Wednesday.

"These girls, they just want to resume school, go back to normal. But they're not given any income or support so many of them have to be a father and a mother to their siblings, in addition to being a survivor," he added.

The Yazidi, a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of ancient Middle Eastern religions, are regarded by Islamic State as devil-worshippers.

Some 7,000 Yazidi women and girls were abducted, tortured and sexually abused by Islamic State fighters who invaded their homeland in northwest Iraq, in 2014.

The militants were driven out a year ago, but many Yazidi women have yet to return to their villages.

"We used to get over 100 rescued women and girls arriving to our office each month, but now we only see five or six," Ismael told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The pace of rescues is slowing down because many of these women have already been killed or brainwashed by their captors."

Manal, a young Yazidi woman who was kidnapped at the age of 17, is now being supported by Yazda after being rescued in December 2014 after four months in captivity when she was beaten until she was unconscious.

"When I woke up there were scars on my body and blood all over my clothes," she said in Arabic through a translator.

"I tried to kill myself several times but I didn't succeed. They didn't care and raped me again and again."

Now living with her family in a refugee camp in Qadiya, northern Iraq, she said she wanted to become a psychiatrist to help other survivors.

Baroness Nicholson, founder of British-based AMAR Foundation which provides education and healthcare in the Middle East, said the world's religions must urgently recognise the Yazidi faith.

"Unless this is done, they will continue to be considered by some – quite wrongly - as devil worshippers, giving vile people the excuse they need to attack them," she said by email.

Nicholson urged the international community to ensure the Yazidis could return home safely, and offer them asylum if they could not face doing so.

"The horrendous suffering of those women and girls so monstrously violated by Islamic State should remain in the public consciousness forever," she said. (Reporting by Zoe Tabary @zoetabary, Editing by Claire Cozens and Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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