Yazidi slave survivor urges UK to help free women in captivity

by Alex Whiting | @AlexWhi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 8 February 2016 16:48 GMT

Nadia Murad Basee Taha, 21, a Yazidi activist who says she was held captive by Islamic State militants in 2014, in London, February 8, 2016. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Shanshan Chen

Image Caption and Rights Information

U.N. says Islamic State still holding around 3,500 people captive in Iraq, the majority women and girls from the Yazidi community

By Alex Whiting

LONDON, Feb 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A young Yazidi survivor of slavery will urge British lawmakers today to help free the thousands of women and girls that remain captive at the hands of Islamic State militants in northern Iraq.

Nadia Murad Basee Taha, 21, who is in London to address the parliamentarians, is also appealing for more help for displaced Yazidis living in refugee camps, and to investigate whether the militant group has committed genocide against the Yazidi people.

Taha took her message to the U.N. Security Council in December, and has spoken to successive governments, appealing to the international community to act.

"The places I've spoken to have given me hope ... but a year and a half has passed and nothing has happened yet," she said in an interview.

She said she was abducted by Islamic State militants from her village in Iraq in August 2014, and taken to the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, where she and thousands of other Yazidi women and children were exchanged by militants as gifts.

She was tortured and repeatedly raped before she escaped three months later. She is now living in Germany.

"I'm in touch with friends - girls who are still in captivity. They are asking for help, to be freed," she said.

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

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

"When I see all the women and children in this situation, they need justice to be brought to them," Taha said.

"... the women and children under captivity did not have life, the terrorists took away their dreams."

Taha has travelled to Egypt, Greece, Kuwait, Norway, the United States and Britain with her message.

"When I am here in these countries, I see the way that women and girls are living, I feel sorry for my own life, I feel sorry for the lives of thousands of women and girls, because no woman and no girl should endure what we have endured," Taha said.

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

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

Last month, director of the U.N. human rights office in Iraq, Francesco Motta, said the militant group is seeking to "destroy part or the whole of the Yazidi people".

Taha will be returning to the United Nations in March, to attend a meeting on women's affairs.

"Since the U.N. Security Council (meeting in December), no women or girls have been rescued, and the things I demanded have not been met. But I'm still waiting," she said.

(Reporting by Alex Whiting, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, human trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.