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Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Nov 07, 2017 2:55 pm

Yazidi survivor recounts harrowing captivity
and daring escape in new book


Nadia Murad was captured, beaten and sold as a sex slave by Islamic State militants, a harrowing experience she would clearly like to put behind her, but she is telling her painful story in a new book published on Tuesday.

In “The Last Girl,” Murad recounts her life in a northern Iraqi village, her brutal captivity, tension-filled escape and feelings of betrayal and abandonment by those who failed to help.

Murad is Yazidi, a religious minority who lived in an uneasy existence with their Muslim neighbors. In 2014, she was one of about 7,000 women and girls captured by the hard-line Sunni Muslim fighters who view Yazidis as devil worshippers.

Yazidi men and older women, including her brothers and her mother, were killed. The younger women and girls were held in captivity for sex.

“It never gets easier to tell your story. Each time you speak it, you relive it,” Murad writes in the book.

“(But) my story, told honestly and matter-of-factly, is the best weapon I have against terrorism, and I plan on using it until those terrorists are put on trial.”

United Nations investigators estimate more than 5,000 Yazidis were rounded up and slaughtered in the 2014 attack, and U.N. experts have said Islamic State was committing genocide against the Yazidis in Syria and Iraq.

In September, the U.N. Security Council approved the creation of an investigative team to collect, preserve and store evidence in Iraq of acts by Islamic State.

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who represents Murad and wrote the foreword to “The Last Girl,” is campaigning for the Islamist group to be prosecuted through the International Criminal Court.

Murad was abducted at age 21 from the village of Kocho near Sinjar, an area home to about 400,000 Yazidis.

“Our Sunni neighbors could have come to us and tried to help,” she writes. “But they didn‘t.”

Recounting the seemingly endless rapes by men who bought and sold her was clearly difficult for the soft-spoken Murad.

“At some point, there was rape and nothing else. This becomes your normal day,” she says in the book.

“You don’t know who is going to open the door next to attack you, just that it will happen and that tomorrow might be worse.”

To escape, Murad saw a fleeting chance to jump over the garden wall of her captor’s house in Mosul. After wandering the streets cloaked in an abaya, she made a daring decision to knock on the door of a stranger’s house and ask for help.

That was a huge risk, and she later learned her niece, also enslaved, had been turned in six times to Islamic State by people she had asked for help.

“Families in Iraq and Syria led normal lives while we were tortured and raped. They watched us walk through the streets with our captors,” she writes. “They let us scream in the slave market and did nothing.”

Murad was lucky that the strangers she found in Mosul helped smuggle her to a refugee camp.

With publication of her memoir by Tim Duggan Books, Murad says she wants to see Yazidis in captivity released, the resettlement of survivors, the removal of landmines in the Sinjar region and prosecution of Islamic State.

But more than anything else, she says: “I want to be the last girl in the world with a story like mine.”

She now lives in Germany and has become a campaigner on behalf of the Yazidi community. This year she became a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mide ... SKBN1D71MS
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Nov 07, 2017 3:08 pm

Yazidis in Iraq: 'The genocide is ongoing'
by Samira Shackle

Khanke camp, northern Iraq - Wahda cannot sleep. During the day, she and her husband are busy caring for their 10 daughters and two sons inside Khanke camp for displaced Iraqis, located in the country's north. It is at night that the memories come.

"I stay awake just thinking, and I'm so angry I can't sleep," Wahda, 41, told Al Jazeera. "I want to take revenge for my daughters."

Her family, who are Yazidi, lived until 2014 in Sinjar, where they owned a house, a car and a small business. The area was home to around 400,000 followers of the ancient Yazidi religion before it was stormed by fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in August 2014.

ISIL fighters systematically murdered Yazidi men and elderly residents, and captured and enslaved women and children. The UN estimated that around 3,000 were murdered and 6,000 taken captive.

"Our neighbours were Sunni Muslims and they told ISIS where to find us," said Wahda, who did not provide a last name. "They wanted girls and they knew that we had so many girls."

Her family was taken into captivity, with the exception of her eldest daughter, Almas, who was visiting relatives. She was shot in the back of the head as she tried to escape.
Harrowing journey

Locked in a room, Wahda and her daughters witnessed the rape and murder of other women held captive. They were held in terrible conditions, regularly beaten and forced to convert to Islam. After two months, they escaped with the help of a friend who had learned of their captivity. After returning to Sinjar, Wahda managed to find her husband, who had survived ISIL's massacre.

Sinjar was destroyed. After a harrowing journey across the mountain, stepping over the corpses and shallow mass graves that littered the ground, the family made it to the relative safety of Khanke camp. As Wadha recounts these events, her five-year-old daughter begins to cry.

The mass murder and enslavement of Yazidis in Iraq drew international attention. France, Germany, Canada and Australia offered asylum, while international NGOs channelled funding towards the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Yazidis. But despite this, many have struggled to recover.

"We have had no psychological or physical support," Wahda said. "I tried several NGOs, but either they didn't believe me that we were held in captivity, or they said that it was only two months, which is nothing, or that we weren't eligible because we were not raped. But my daughters' backs were black from bruises, and we have seen a lot."

Khider Domle, a Yazidi researcher, academic and activist based in Dohuk, told Al Jazeera that while members of the Yazidi community have been offered basic supports, it is "not for the long term".

"Our psychological, social and religious identity has been destroyed," Domle said. "People are living all over the place, and they don't know what the future is. There have been no initiatives from the Iraqi government to help the displaced people return back to Sinjar; no national reconciliation process; no attempt to rebuild ruined infrastructure."

With local and international attention diverted to the ongoing battle against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, local activists say that the momentum behind an organised aid response for Yazidis appears to have dissipated. In the meantime, people within the Yazidi community are working to help each other.

Domle, who runs a women's centre and has been gathering testimonies from victims, is also helping to rescue the women and children who remain enslaved.

"We don't know where they have been taken, so the genocide is ongoing," he said, noting that part of his role is to gather information, which he then passes on to rescuers on the ground in ISIL-controlled areas. "Always, non-stop, we are working, looking, cooperating."
Sexual slavery

Many Yazidi activists have overcome enormous tragedy themselves. Adiba Qasim was 19 when ISIL stormed Sinjar. Along with her parents and three siblings, she escaped just 15 minutes before fighters began taking hostages.

Of her extended family, 70 people went missing; a few have returned, but the majority are either in captivity or mass graves.

Qasim and her family fled to a refugee camp in Turkey, where she noticed a lack of translators for Kurmanji, the Kurdish dialect that most Yazidis speak. She also noticed that survivors of ISIL's sexual slavery often emerged from interviews with journalists or NGO workers even more distressed than when they started.

"They were being asked things like, 'How many times were you raped?'" Qasim said. "I decided to learn English so I could work with women."

Qasim had never been to school, as infrastructure in Sinjar was severely lacking even before the 2014 crisis, but she had an aptitude for languages. She found scraps of paper in bins and sometimes used old cigarette packets to practise writing English words. Within months, she could speak well enough to translate for NGO workers in the camp.

After a year, she decided to return to northern Iraq to help bring the stories of Yazidi women to the world. She now works as a fixer and translator for journalists and human rights organisations.

"It's hard to work on your own story, but I think this is the right place for me," Qasim said. "It has been three years, and everybody knows what happened to Yazidis. Most of these women have told their stories 100 times, but they never received any help."

When Wahda and her family found a base in Khanke camp, she embarked on a mission to find her eldest daughter's body. Someone had told her where Almas had been buried in a shallow grave. Against all odds, Wahda eventually found it, identifying her daughter's clothes and long black hair. She was able to give her daughter the proper burial rites, but the memory still haunts her.

A few months later, Wahda's daughter, Inas, signed up to fight with an all-female, all-Yazidi Peshmerga unit. Now 17, she spends a third of each month on the front lines. Her camouflage fatigues are hung prominently inside the rudimentary brick structure where the family now lives.

"It's good to be active, and to be a fighter," Inas told Al Jazeera. "It's better to do something than nothing. I am fighting to avenge my sister and all the girls who are still in captivity."

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/11/y ... 40012.html

The reporting for this article was supported by a Media Fellowship through the initiative on Religion and the Global Framing of Gender Violence, Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University.
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Nov 09, 2017 3:43 am

Was there a far more sinister reason for Iraqi/Iranian invasion of Kurdistan?

We all already believe that the attack on Kurdistan was pre-planned, well prepared and absolutely nothing to do with the referendum. Now it appears that the attack on Kurdistan may have been strengthened by Iran's desire for a mountain base X(

Iranian Control of Strategic Kurdish Mountain Poses
Serious Threat to Israel, Top Security Official Says


Iranian control of a strategically significant Kurdish area near the border between Iraq and Syria represents a grave security threat to Israel, a senior Kurdish security official told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Iran had coveted the mountainous Sinjar region — which spans from northwestern Iraq into eastern Syria — for “at least ten years.” In 2014, Sinjar was conquered by ISIS terrorists who went on to commit genocide and other war crimes against the region’s ancient Yazidi minority. After ISIS was driven out of the area by Kurdish peshmerga this year, Iranian-backed paramilitaries, among them the Hashd al-Shaabi, the Badr Organization and the Khorasani Brigades, began attacking the Kurds for control of the newly-liberated lands.

The same paramilitaries played a central role in the Iranian-coordinated assault on Kurdistan last month, following a 93 percent vote in favor of independence in the September 25 Kurdish referendum.

The official added that he had received reports claiming the Khorasani Brigades, an Iraqi Shia group affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), were building a “military base” on Mount Sinjar – at 4,800 ft, the region’s highest point. Kurdish media outlets have also reported on a continued stream of Iraqi army officers and Hashd al-Shaabi fighters onto the mountain and in the town of Sinjar beneath it. Hashd al Shaabi’s commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis – designated for terrorism by the US State Department – has been sighted in the area on several occasions.

The area contains several Yazidi holy sites, including the Sharfadin shrine on Mount Sinjar itself. “This is an important place for all of us as Kurds,” the Kurdish official said. “The area is known for its Yazidi population, and there are Muslims and Christians there too. But it is also a place that presents a threat to Israel, and to other countries in the region.”

The nature of that threat, according to the official, was demonstrated during the First Gulf War in 1991, when there was a consistent high-level Iraqi military presence on Mount Sinjar, even though the area was never targeted by Western coalition aircraft during the conflict. Some have claimed that the Iraqis launched their Scud missile attacks on Israel and Saudi Arabia during that conflict from Mount Sinjar — although Tel Aviv, which lies about 500 miles to the west, would have been out of range of even the most advanced Scuds at the time.

Numerous eyewitness reports confirm that significant Iraqi military activity was taking place on Mount Sinjar going back to the late 1970s, when Saddam Hussein’s regime began testing missiles at a facility there. In an article published in May, the Israeli journalist Seth Frantzman quoted two Kurdish witnesses who recalled that in 1991 there had been “red fire” while “Iraq was bombarding Israel from the mountain.” Frantzman also quoted a sergeant from Britain’s elite SAS regiment, who said that he too had seen “a great big ball of light…a fireball” on Mount Sinjar, as well as Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector who reported that the Iraqi army had cordoned off the entire Sinjar region during the 1991 war, and that one Iraqi had told him, “Sinjar is the key.”

Almost thirty years on, vast improvements in ballistic missile technology mean that Israeli is well within firing distance from Mount Sinjar. A new ballistic missile unveiled by the Tehran regime in September, the BM-25 Khorramshahr, has a range of 2,000 miles — creating a potential nightmare scenario for the Israelis as they attempt to deal with the arsenal of 150,000 missiles controlled by Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese proxy, at the same time.

“If you control the mountain, you can control the area,” the Kurdish official said. “Iran can launch an attack on Tel Aviv, and it now has a clear corridor through which to supply its other proxies, like Hezbollah.”

The official added there was growing concern over ethnic cleansing now being carried out by Shia paramilitaries in the territories taken from the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga last month.

New photos from Tuz Khurmatu, an ethnically diverse town seized by the Hashd al-Shaabi on October 16, suggest that houses and stores have been marked according to the background of their owner. One image showed a burned-out Kurdish grocery store alongside an untouched home marked as belonging to a family from the Shia Turkoman minority. More than 35,000 refugees have fled the fighting in the town.

https://www.algemeiner.com/2017/11/08/i ... cial-says/
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Nov 09, 2017 12:12 pm

Sadr comments positively on Bashar’s presence in WYF

Iraqi Ambassador to Egypt Habib al-Sadr said on the World Youth Forum's (WYF) sidelines, that he came to Sharm El-Sheikh to visit the escaped captive Lamiya Aja Bashar, who told her story with “courage.”

Bashar is a Yazidi Iraqi girl who managed to escape the Islamic State (IS) militants’ captivity about a year ago, and told her story on Sunday at the WYF in Sharm El-Sheikh.

“I came here today not as an ambassador, representing my country, but I consider myself as Lamiya’s father,” Sadr stated. "I gave her all my addresses so that she would be able to contact me whenever she wants," he added.

Bashar said that Lamiya’s story does not only represent her personal grief, but the grief of all Iraqi girls who experienced IS’s severe assault.

Bashar was held captive by the Islamic State, taken as a sex slave and gang raped. She tried to escape captivity four times but failed.

In 2016, Bashar could successfully escape on her fifth attempt but was critically injured in a landmine explosion where she lost an eye, and her face was disfigured.

http://www.egypttoday.com/Article/1/316 ... nce-in-WYF
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Nov 09, 2017 10:23 pm

Over 3,000 Yazidis survive Islamic State’s abduction

Number of Yazidi survivors, who were kidnapped by Islamic State, has reached up to 3,191, a Kurdish official said on Thursday.

“The recent figures indicate that 6,417 Yazidis are held by ISIS,” Khairi Bozani, the head of the Yazidi Affairs Office of the Kurdistan Regional Government, told Alghad Press. “Number of kidnapped women reaches 3,547, while 2,870 Yazidi men are abducted.”

“Number of survivors reached 3,191, including 1,128 women and 335 men,” Bozani added. “Female children survivors reached 900, while male children reached 828.”

The Kurdish-speaking community came to the spotlight when Islamic State militants, taking over large parts of Iraq, victimized its members, committing massacres and subjecting them to forced conversions, sexual slavery and other reported atrocities.

In July, Bozani said around 90,000 Yazidi out of a total of 550,000 in Iraq have immigrated to Europe.

Many Yazidis were persecuted and held in Mosul by Islamic State, which considered them devil-worshippers.

A study on the number of Yazidis affected showed that at least 9,900 of Iraq’s Yazidis were killed or kidnapped in just days in an attack by the militants in 2014.

About 3,100 Yazidis were killed – with more than half shot, beheaded or burned alive – while about 6,800 others were kidnapped to become sex slaves or fighters, according to the report published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Medicine.

https://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/3000 ... -official/
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:06 pm

Hashd al-Shaabi Search Civilian Houses in Sinjar Without Court Order

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The militia groups operating as part of the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi are raiding civilian homes in Sinjar and conducting searches without having a court order, causing panic among civilians, said Mayor Mahma Khalil.

“According to Iraqi laws, no civilian houses could be searched without a prior order from a court; however, Hashd al-Shaabi militias follow their own rules,” Khalil told BasNews.

He stated there are reports of stolen cash and jewellery after the Shi’ite militias searched some civilian properties in Sinjar.

After invading Kirkuk and many other disputed Kurdish territories in mid-October, Hashd al-Shaabi militias entered Sinjar in coordination with some Yezidi units of Peshmerga forces in the town.

http://www.basnews.com/index.php/en/new ... tan/392679
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:11 pm

SOMEONE PLEASE PROTECT THE YAZIDIS

    Russia

    America

    Britain

    France

    Saudi Arabia

    NATO

    UN

    Coalition partners

SOMEONE PLEASE PROTECT THE YAZIDIS
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Nov 14, 2017 9:41 pm

Center provides psychological care for Yezidi survivors of ISIS rule

Freed Yazidi women and girls are now receiving psychological care at a center in Duhok through the Free Yezidi Foundation (FYF), bringing change and hope to those who survived the world's largest genocide in modern history in the hands of ISIS militants during and after invasion of their region around Mosul in 2014.

"My people have suffered a lot at the hands of ISIS. These women have suffered enormous trauma. They have been raped many times a day by different men," said Pari Ibrahim, founder and Executive Director of FYF, UN Women reported on Tuesday. "That's why I started the Free Yezidi Foundation—to get trauma care for women and girls so that they can start living their lives again."

FYF receives support from the United Nations Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) and runs a women's center in Duhok to help women and girls deal with the atrocities which they have suffered.

"Where I come from, people don't go to the doctor for mental health issues. Deep inside, they [survivors] are suffering immensely, also because of the associated social stigma that implies it is [somehow] their fault that they aren't virgins, that they can't marry," she said. "In the beginning, a lot of these women and girls committed suicide."

The women's center provides post-trauma experts from outside Iraq so that the ISIS survivors can speak with them without feeling shame and further stigmatization.

All of the staff at the women's center are also Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and have received training to provide psychological support. Besides providing sessions at the center, they also make home visits and speak to family members to further help support the girls and women.

"In the three years since we started the center, we've already seen a lot of change in the women and girls who have received support," Ibrahim said. "They now express what they feel. You see them being more active, you see them in groups, and you see them making friends—and that makes a big difference, because the social integration is so important for healing."

There are currently over 100 women undergoing psychological support for a minimum of three months. Those who need further treatment come back once a week to see a therapist.

"At Free Yezidi Foundation, we are led by Yezidi women and we are here to show survivors the possibilities of a new life, out of the shadows of shame and trauma," Ibrahim said.

"Escaping ISIS is only the beginning of a painful journey for many Yezidi women," she added. "We cannot leave them alone in that journey."

http://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/141120172
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Tue Nov 14, 2017 11:23 pm

How the Islamic State Benefits from Sexual Violence

Extremist groups benefit strategically and financially from the subjugation of women. So says Nadia Murad Basee Taha, United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking: “The Islamic State didn't come to kill the women and girls, but to use us as spoils of war and as objects to be sold.” They generate revenue from sex trafficking, sexual slavery, and extortion through ransom: the United Nations estimates that ransom payments extracted by the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria from the Yazidi community amounted to between $35 million and $45 million in 2014 alone. In fact, as a new Council on Foreign Relations report outlines, conflict-related sexual violence has emerged as a core element of both the ideology and operation of extremist groups, including the Islamic State and Boko Haram in Nigeria. These groups use sexual violence not only to generate revenues but also to achieve security objectives by terrorizing populations into compliance, displacing civilians from strategic areas, and entrenching an ideology of suppressing women’s rights to control reproduction and provide labor.

In her new book, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity and My Fight Against the Islamic State, Murad shares the harrowing experience of witnessing the Islamic State’s genocide of her Yazidi community, and a vision for how to defeat them and ensure the survival of the Yazidis. Last week, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) had the honor of hosting Murad and Mark Lagon, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, for a discussion on the Islamic State and efforts to counter human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence.

While the Islamic State sought to destroy Yazidi families and communities, the Iraqi government and leaders around the world now have an opportunity to ensure they do not succeed. But that requires more than defeating the Islamic State on the battlefield, Murad argued. Over 300,000 Yazidis remain displaced, and 3,000 are missing in captivity, including women and girls still held in sexual slavery. Murad’s hope is that the U.S. government will support efforts to rebuild Sinjar and resettle Islamic State survivors, including by reconstructing the homes and schools that have been destroyed, removing the landmines left behind by the Islamic State, assisting survivors in their physical and emotional recovery, and protecting the rights of religious minorities in Iraq. Murad pointed to recent commitments by French President Macron, and called on other world leaders to similarly translate their sympathy for Yazidis into investments in their future.

While the Islamic State sought to destroy Yazidi families and communities, the Iraqi government and leaders around the world now have an opportunity to ensure they do not succeed. But that requires more than defeating the Islamic State on the battlefield, Murad argued. Over 300,000 Yazidis remain displaced, and 3,000 are missing in captivity, including women and girls still held in sexual slavery. Murad’s hope is that the U.S. government will support efforts to rebuild Sinjar and resettle Islamic State survivors, including by reconstructing the homes and schools that have been destroyed, removing the landmines left behind by the Islamic State, assisting survivors in their physical and emotional recovery, and protecting the rights of religious minorities in Iraq. Murad pointed to recent commitments by French President Macron, and called on other world leaders to similarly translate their sympathy for Yazidis into investments in their future.

It is also essential to hold the Islamic State accountable, including for their use of rape as a tactic of terror. Survivors are ready to testify, but evidence is at risk of being destroyed before the Islamic State is brought to justice. As a first step, the United Nations Security Council in September called for the establishment of an independent investigative team to collect, preserve, and store evidence of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed by the Islamic State—including sexual violence. Furthermore, the Iraqi government should classify survivors of sexual violence by the Islamic State as victims of terrorism, thereby ensuring appropriate support.

Supporting Yazidi women and girls to recover also requires countering the stigma that often follows survivors of sexual violence. As the recent CFR report outlines, research on the consequences of war cites sexual violence as one reason why women experience more long-term health consequences from conflict than men, and stigma remains a potent force that excludes women from the economic sphere, leading to a lifetime of poverty. The economic ramifications of conflict-related sexual violence can compound across generations, as children born of rape frequently experience discrimination and exclusion from services. The support of political and religious leaders can be critical to counter the stigma survivors face: when Yazidi spiritual leader, Khurto Hajji Ismail, welcomed survivors back into the community, it contributed to the reintegration of women and girls freed from Islamic State captivity, according to Murad.

Finally, defeating the Islamic State and ensuring the full recovery of affected communities in Iraq also depends on including women. As Lagon observed, the U.S. government should ensure that women have a voice in peace negotiations and reconciliation. A new CFR digital interactive report details how women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution can improve outcomes before, during, and after conflict.

It’s a strategy worth investing in. As the Islamic State loses territory and the U.S. government funds recovery efforts, ensuring women’s participation in reconstruction efforts will improve the potential for Iraq’s prosperity and security.

https://www.cfr.org/blog/how-islamic-st ... l-violence
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Re: Yazidi UPDATES genocide has occurred and is ongoing

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Nov 20, 2017 10:47 am

Yazidi refugee now living in Lincoln recounts terrifying story of her enslavement

Shireen Ibrahim thumbs through the photos on her cellphone until the dark eyes and furrowed brow of the man who sold her into slavery stare back.

She looks away as she pushes the phone across the table, retreating inward from the harrowing memories Abu Ali can conjure.

“I never want to see his face,” she says, her voice rising in pitch, “but I keep it so I can show it to others.”

Ibrahim, 31, was freed from captivity two and a half years ago, along with buses full of Yazidis, mostly elderly women and children, even as the so-called Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate was near the height of its power across Iraq and Syria.

Now living in Lincoln as a refugee, along with approximately 3,000 other Yazidis who have escaped a series of conflicts and genocides in the Middle East to settle in Nebraska, Ibrahim hoped time and distance would be a buffer, helping her forget the torture and abuse she suffered at the hands of the man others in the death cult referred to as emir.

But then Abu Ali’s face appeared on social media, a screenshot from a news report on civilians fleeing the city of Tel Afar as Iraqi security forces prepared to liberate the ISIS stronghold in August.

A Yazidi woman living in Germany recognized Ali as the man who had sold her multiple times. Others identified him as their tormentor, not as the internally displaced Iraqi he claimed to be.

“As soon as I saw his picture,” Ibrahim recalled, her story translated from her native Kurdish dialect into English by Gulie Khalaf, “I recognized him as the person who caused all my pain.”

Ali’s picture, his thinning hair and broad nose, a dark stare fixed just beyond the camera, is now a testimony to Ibrahim’s story and to that of thousands of Yazidis who remain in captivity or missing.

It’s also a reminder that the justice sought by Yazidis for the atrocities committed against them, including the thousands living in the Capital City, remains elusive, as former fighters of the Islamic State dissipate into the populations they once subjugated, Ibrahim said.

“I don’t want the truth to disappear.”

'It Was a Beautiful Day'

The day before Ibrahim was taken by ISIS was picture perfect, a time for celebration to mark the end of a 40-day fast observed by the most devoted adherents of the Yazidi faith.

Largely based on oral tradition, the Yazidis’ monotheistic religion predates Judaism and Christianity, and has been practiced on the Nineveh plains of Iraq for thousands of years.

In early August 2014, the Yazidis were preparing for the Ieda Chilê Havinê, or “Feast of the Forty Days of Summer,” a day full of fellowship between families and among neighbors, topped by elaborate meals and candies and sweets for children.

“It was a very beautiful day,” Ibrahim said, telling how she traveled with her brothers and sisters from their sheep and vegetable farm near the town of Rambusi into the city of Sinjar to call on an uncle for the holiday.

As they celebrated, however, ISIS was planning an offensive into the Sinjar district of Iraq, expanding its territories to the areas west of Mosul, after the extremist group had conquered the country’s second-largest city earlier in June.

Ibrahim said like many Yazidis clustered into hamlets and towns surrounding Sinjar, she believed ISIS would simply pass them by.

Yazidis had lived peacefully among Muslims and minority Christians for centuries, and the Kurdish military forces, the Peshmerga, had established a network of checkpoints to help maintain stability throughout the region.

But ISIS had in fact set the Yazidis in its sight, reviving an old, incorrect translation that the faith was a religion of “devil worshippers” who ought to convert to their brand of Islam or be killed.

The day of the feast celebrating the summer holiday -- Aug. 2, 2014 -- was the last day Ibrahim would be together with family.

The next morning, ISIS attacked the Peshmerga outposts in the Sinjar district, quickly sweeping northward toward an unaware Yazidi population and forcing the Kurdish military to retreat.

Yazidis from the surrounding villages, including Ibrahim’s uncle, Aato, took up the few weapons available in the early morning hours of Aug. 3 to defend the region, believing the Peshmerga would return with a larger force to rout the Islamists.

The help they waited for would never come. Ibrahim said she was awake on that Sunday morning baking bread when a cellphone rang.

“It was a little before 7 a.m. when we got the call from my uncle in one of the other villages saying the forces of Peshmerga had left and that daesh (a derogatory term for ISIS) had entered the village and began killing people,” Ibrahim said.

Uncle Aato, who sought to buy time for his family at Girzerik, a village 15 miles away, issued crystal clear directions, Ibrahim said: “Get in your cars, lock your doors, and get out.”

Grabbing the bread she had baked, along with vegetables and yogurt, Ibrahim left with her sisters, fleeing with another uncle, Khudeda, northward through the city of Sinjar toward the mountain range where the Yazidi people had long sought refuge.

The Sinjar Mountains had been a place for Yazidis to retreat in the face of genocide, its caves among the wooded slopes providing shelter and its wells providing water in the previous 73 genocides against their people dating back to the 13th century.

Ibrahim thought joining the exodus of Yazidis would be temporary, avoiding danger until ISIS either moved on or was pushed back by the Kurdish military.

“I was thinking I should grab my parents’ pictures and take them with us, but my brother said no, we would be coming back quickly after the fighting stops,” she lamented. “We were thinking the Peshmerga was going to be coming back.”

As they fled through the foothills, the pickup Ibrahim was riding in with her sisters broke down along the dusty, winding road, forcing them to walk.

Before they could get much further, three vehicles approached from the opposite direction, blocking the road and forcing them to halt at gunpoint. Islamic fighters ordered the Yazidis to throw out their weapons and turn over their cellphones.

“I wasn’t sure what to think because I was sure they did not come for the Yazidis, but as it turns out, we were the ones they had come to target,” Ibrahim said.

Khudeda, the only one in the family who spoke Arabic, tried to talk to the militants, Ibrahim said, asking for their release before he was silenced by the threat of a gun to his head. ISIS militants ordered the Yazidis into the vehicles and drove them back to Sinjar.

The Spoils of War

The return to Sinjar revealed a different city than the day before. Neighborhoods that had been full of holiday cheer were replaced by ISIS patrols moving between houses to capture Yazidis, herding them into makeshift processing centers, or executing them if they refused.

They were now "sabaya" -- the "spoils of war."

Ibrahim and her family were taken to a wedding hall in Sinjar, a familiar venue full of fond memories, where the men were locked away on the second floor, and the women were pushed into a lush courtyard area in full view of the mountains, the teasing safe haven now out of reach.

Eventually ISIS moved the women to Sinjar’s civil records office for holding until they could be moved deeper within ISIS territory to more secure locations.

“When night fell on the first day, they came and started taking away the girls who were young or pretty,” Ibrahim said. “My sister Zhara was taken that day, they said to be taught the Quran.”

The next two days were full of heartbreak and terror, as extremists pulled apart families, singling out unmarried women to be sold as sex slaves, or children to be forced to learn ISIS’s warped ideology.

Ibrahim held tight to her nephew Dilhad, 3, the only child of her younger brother Hadi, who had also been captured on the mountain road. The father and son became separated from Dilhad's mother during the family's hurried escape.

As ISIS compiled the names of Yazidis into a registry, Ibrahim and other women claimed younger siblings or nieces and nephews as their own.

“At that time, if you were a married woman and part of a family, they would not take you away,” she said. “When they came, my nephew was sitting on my lap. I began to cry 'This is my child!’ so they left me alone for a while, but that changed.”

In the Prison of Badoush

At dusk the next day, the Yazidis being held at the government office were pushed onto buses with curtains drawn over the windows bound for an At dusk the next day, the Yazidis being held at the government office were pushed onto buses with curtains drawn over the windows bound for an unknown destination.

After a few hours, the bus arrived at the prison of Badoush, northwest of Mosul, the site of a massacre of 600 inmates in June 2014 when those who practiced Shia Islam, whose faith contradicts with the theology practiced by ISIS adherents, were executed alongside Kurdish and Yazidi prisoners and pushed into a nearby ravine.

Signs of violence were everywhere inside the prison, Ibrahim said, even though she had never heard of the detention center 70 miles from her home.

“It was this dark, dusty place with burned bed bunks and blood all over the place,” she said.

More than a thousand Yazidi women are estimated to have been held at the prison, where they were given contaminated water and stale bread.

“Sometimes a day or two would pass without food,” Ibrahim said, adding several children fell ill from drinking the water.

Dilhad, who had been injured before arriving at the prison, remained under Ibrahim's care, she said. Growing suspicious, ISIS began subjecting women they believed were lying to them about having children to a gynecological examination, according to a United Nations Human Rights Council report.

The extremist group may have intended to keep the Yazidis at Badoush longer, but a barrage of coalition airstrikes rocked the prison walls and shattered its windows, Ibrahim said.

The airstrikes were originally targeted to open up escape routes for Yazidis trapped on Sinjar Mountain, but their scope had expanded in the following days, forcing ISIS to abandon the prison of Badoush.

Reunited with Family, Briefly

The walls of the prison disappeared in the dark as the bus left Badoush, driving westward to Tel Afar, one of the first cities in Iraq to fall under complete control of ISIS earlier that summer.

Tel Afar, a city of roughly 200,000 people, most of them Sunni Muslims, was home to many of ISIS’s top leaders, including Abu Ali, the man responsible for selling hundreds of Yazidis, including Ibrahim.

Now deep inside ISIS-controlled territory, some 4,000 Yazidi women and children were put into a crowded school. Food and water were scarce, creating a sense of panic, and seemingly at random, militants would carry away Yazidi women.

Two of Ibrahim’s female cousins were taken by ISIS militants in Tel Afar, causing her to break down crying. The outburst drew the attention of her captors, who beat her mercilessly, breaking a bone in her hand and leaving her unable to walk.

Shortly after the separation, Ibrahim reunited with two other relatives: A brother, Hadi, and a cousin, Khairy, both of whom had convinced ISIS they were married to women being held in the school.

Ibrahim and Khairy maintained the subterfuge that they were a married couple, while Hadi and another of Ibrahim’s cousins, Nirgas, also tricked ISIS with the scheme.

Reunited, they were moved to another village on the outskirts of Tel Afar named Kasir Almihran, where they were confined to a house, fed dirty rice and salt water and forced to convert to Islam.

For the next month, ISIS would gather the men during the day and put them to work building a mosque, or to teach them to pray in the Islamic way, while the women remained out of sight.

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Anyone who tried to escape was executed, Ibrahim said, and the militants "would make sure everyone was aware of it so it became a lesson.”

ISIS conducted regular checks of the individual houses in order to record which Yazidis were there, trying to detect which of their captives were trying to deceive them. Chaos and confusion abounded.

“Every day we woke up and the men were still among us felt like a rebirth,” Ibrahim said. “We just never knew how all this would end up and if someone was coming to our rescue.”

Despair among Yazidis in the village grew with each passing day. Ibrahim asked her cousin, Khairy, to tattoo her name across her left arm, using milk and ashes as a dye, when the women learned they would be separated from the men once more.

In crude handwriting, he scrawled “SHEREN” down her forearm.

“If they ended up doing something to me and I ended up dying, at least they would recognize my body and know this is me,” she said.

Soon after, the Yazidis living in Kasir Almihran were loaded onto dirty dump trucks for the bumpy, nauseating ride to Mosul.

The Slave Market in Mosul

ISIS used another government building in Mosul, which it conquered the same day as Badoush prison in June 2014, as a temporary holding station for the Yazidis, recording the names and relationships of their prisoners one last time.

This time, Khairy was unable to convince the militants that Ibrahim was his wife.

“Khairy was begging him, kissing his shoe, pleading with him ‘please leave us alone,’” Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim was separated from her cousin and nephew, Dilhad, moved to a nearby jail with 13 other women and locked inside a room with windows that had been painted over, keeping them in the dark.

Abu Ali appeared and threw the long black robes worn by Muslim women -- known as abaya -- at the group, ordering them to cover their faces and hands in preparation for a sale.

One of the women being held at the jail had already been traded between militants and quietly explained to the other Yazidi women they were now in a slave market to be sold to fighters across the Middle East, casting a deep depression over the group.

When the Yazidi women were dressed, ISIS militants came to purchase them from Ali, with 11 of the 14 chosen on the first day, Ibrahim said. According to the Human Rights Council's June 2016 brief of the genocide, compiled from interviews with 45 Yazidis, fighters were buying Yazidi women for as much as $1,500.

Ibrahim remained behind along with two other women, including the one who had been previously bought and sold, and another injured in a recent airstrike who had already been purchased and was waiting to be collected.

The ongoing trauma caused Ibrahim to collapse from exhaustion and anxiety. A man ISIS claimed was a doctor diagnosed her as having a stroke.

Ibrahim said in those moments she had resigned herself to death.

“I fell down and from that point on decided I was not going to talk, that I was going to be an invalid,” she said.

But she also held out a small bit of hope and human dignity.

“If I were to die, I would still be among ISIS instead of near my own family. For the sake of my brothers and my family, I wanted to continue living.”

Several days went by without anyone coming to purchase Ibrahim, so Ali claimed her as his own.

For four excruciating days, Ali would torment Ibrahim, beating her when she refused to speak or walk, and subjecting her to sexual abuse.

He kept her in a jail cell with a Christian woman also purchased by Ali, who screamed day and night and refused the little food she was given, pouring it over herself instead, Ibrahim said.

Ali had had enough of Ibrahim, who was bruised and bloodied for refusing to speak. He drove her out of the city and through the desert plains of northern Iraq to an outpost near the town of Baa’j and traded her to another militant, Haji Mehdi, for a gun.

'We'll Do This Until You Die'

Mehdi sold Ibrahim again shortly after buying her, this time to a Syrian militant named Abu Adil, who took her to Raqqa, the de facto capital of ISIS’s self-proclaimed caliphate.

Already free to indulge his sadistic streak inside the Raqqa city limits, Adil grew increasingly infuriated by Ibrahim’s refusal to respond to him or others.

When she refused to eat, daesh fighters would beat her and force her to drink “a green, oily liquid” -- likely antifreeze -- which continues to upset her stomach and ruin her appetite.

He also ordered Ibrahim to be rolled in blankets and thrown into an alley where ISIS fighters took turns firing their weapons over her body and near her head, an act she said was to intimidate her into breaking her silence.

“At that moment, I was for sure they were going to kill me, that I was going to be done with all of this,” she said. “I felt relief that it was going to be over, but it wasn’t. The shots ring in my ears.”

A doctor working for ISIS in Raqqa suggested Ibrahim had a cancer preventing her from speaking.

Each day for about a month, Adil would ferry her between his home, where he lived with an Arabic-speaking woman and another Yazidi slave, and the hospital in a black Jeep, where men she was told were doctors would poke and prod her.

As a sinister treatment for the imagined disease, Adil's gang carried Ibrahim into a room in the hospital full of equipment she did not recognize and laid her down, taping wires behind her ears, just below her collarbones, and to her fingertips.

Adil threw a switch and an electric current began to pulse through her body, forcing her vision to go blurry and ripping her in and out of consciousness.

“We’ll do this until you speak or die,” he told her in between shocks.

At the end of what Ibrahim believes was a 15-minute period -- it could have been longer, she admits -- she remembers Adil proclaiming his Yazidi slave was dead.

The electricity stopped, but the pain endures.

“I am always in pain,” Ibrahim says, wiping a tear from her eye. “The family I am staying with always asks me to go for walks, but I can’t do it.”

The Doctor of Mosul

Unable to break her will with electric shocks, Adil grew tired of Ibrahim, selling her to Abu Saleh near the beginning of November 2014. Saleh returned to Mosul with Ibrahim, imprisoning her once more alongside the Christian woman.

At the insistence of another member of ISIS who said he could cure Ibrahim of her maladies, Abu Omar, Saleh rented her away.

Omar brought Ibrahim to his home in Mosul, where the black flag of ISIS hung over the door. She spent 10 days laying on her back. Omar and his wife would feed her intravenously.

Omar tried to convince her to talk, telling her that if she spoke, he could get her to his cousin in Kirkuk who could secure her release to a Yazidi militia near Sinjar, but Ibrahim refused.

The refusal angered Omar and his wife, who drove her to a local hospital, determined to finally cure her of whatever illness was causing her to be mute.

She was wheeled into an operating room filled with strange men as a needle plunged into her arm, causing her to lose consciousness.

Sometime later -- Ibrahim is unsure how much time passed -- she awoke in a darkened room smelling of anesthetic. A sharp pain tore through her stomach, which was now wrapped in a damp mesh of bandages.

Omar, who represented himself as a surgeon, had opened her abdomen with a vertical 6-inch incision below her belly button. A second incision cut horizontally across the first, leaving a ghastly cross-shaped wound.

No one was present to explain what procedure the doctor had performed.

“To this day, I have no idea what it is they did or why they did it,” she said. “I never complained of pain or any kind of illness.”

The Long Road to Freedom

Estimating just how long Ibrahim was held in Raqqa and Mosul is an exercise in extrapolating the time spent between periods of torture and unconsciousness.

After the unnecessary surgery and through early spring 2015, she remained under the control of Omar and his family.

Omar grew increasingly paranoid, with hints of an approaching U.S-led offensive to retake Mosul, after American warplanes scattered leaflets across the city's neighborhoods warning civilians to flee ahead of the battle.

"He told me if I started walking and talking, they might be able to get me back to my family," Ibrahim said.

Yazidis who either escaped ISIS or had their freedom purchased by their families reported to the Human Rights Council their captors had been willing to sell the women for amounts ranging between $10,000 and $40,000.

Not knowing the status of her family, Ibrahim was unsure of Omar's intentions, or how he planned to collect a ransom. At one point, she said, he seemed to indicate a plan to turn her over to Kasim Scheso, a Yazidi general who had stopped ISIS's advance in the Sinjar Mountains.

When they left Mosul, however, Omar took Ibrahim north toward Turkey in an apparent attempt to escape, until a well-timed phone call alerted him to coalition forces patrolling the border.

Omar turned around and headed back south, presumably to the cousin in Kirkuk, a journey lasting several days on dusty back roads winding through Iraq.

But coalition forces were also advancing from the south, culminating in a withering deluge of airstrikes by the U.S. and a ground offensive by the Iraqi army in late March that liberated the city of Tikrit.

In abandoning the city, ISIS removed more than 200 Yazidi prisoners in poor health, mostly elderly women and children, to be traded to a Kurdish military commander.

By chance, Omar came upon the bus of Yazidis near the village of Rashidi and released Ibrahim to them as he continued his effort to escape capture by coalition forces.

Ibrahim had spent more than eight months in ISIS captivity, trafficked between Iraq and Syria in the heart of the caliphate.

Now -- along with 215 other Yazidis -- she was free.

A Longer Road to Recovery

The Yazidi prisoners were turned over to Peshmerga forces southwest of Kirkuk on Wednesday, April 8, 2015.

A photographer captured an image of Ibrahim that day, still dressed in a long, dark robe, a hand pressed against her forehead, her expression reflecting the atrocities she experienced.

While some of the Yazidis were immediately released to family in the city about 180 miles north of Baghdad, most were taken to the Kurdish capital of Erbil for medical examinations, including Ibrahim.

The Yazidis were later taken to Lalish, a sacred shrine and pilgrimage destination for the Yazidi faithful about 35 miles northeast of Mosul.

It was at the Yazidis' holiest place Ibrahim was reunited with her youngest brother, Qahtan, who had escaped ISIS with the family's herd of sheep the previous August.

"Any time Yazidis would be released from captivity, they were taken to the holy site and my brother Qahtan would be there," she said, waiting to see if family members were among the freed.

Together with her brother, Ibrahim traveled to Dohuk, a Kurdish city in northern Iraq about the size of Lincoln at the hub of a series of refugee camps for those escaping ISIS and the Syrian civil war.

She was now one of the nearly 15,000 people living in the Bajid Kandala refugee camp along the Tigris River, a collection of buildings and tents thousands of Yazidis who fled the Sinjar region were now calling home.

Ibrahim slowly recovered from her physical injuries over the next 14 months inside the camp, revealing her part of the greater tragedy touching all Yazidis piece by piece.

Captivated by her story, and with the help of Yazda, a U.S.-based relief organization for Yazidis, Ibrahim was provided with a humanitarian visa by the United Nations to share her harrowing tale.

Ibrahim now works with UN Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad and other Yazidi women to spread awareness of the ongoing genocide against their people.

Her media appearances reached Lincoln, where the largest concentration of Yazidis living in the U.S. saw one of their own needing help and a new community.

"A couple of my sisters invited her to come to our house here in Lincoln after hearing her story on TV," said Khalaf Hesso, a Yazidi who lives in Lincoln and runs his own interpreting service.

Ibrahim has integrated into Nebraska's Yazidi community, particularly among those living in the intimate neighborhood surrounding West Lincoln Elementary, where several large families have settled.

About two months ago, Ibrahim began attending the Grandma Project, a program coordinated by Gulie Khalaf to teach Yazidi women English and help them live independently.

Ibrahim plans to seek asylum status in the U.S., and through the Grandma Project, pick up enough English to earn a driver's license.

Wounds That Won't Heal

A doctor in Dohuk speculated ISIS may have stolen one of Ibrahim’s kidneys to sell on the black market, but a second opinion determined all of her organs remain intact.

It’s just another unanswered question in a long series of question marks Ibrahim and other Yazidis, now spread out across Europe and North America, have grappled with since Aug. 3, 2014.

“I would like to find out what happened to me,” she said. “We need to know why all this happened.”

Just as bad as the lingering physical pain is the mental anguish Ibrahim lives with despite the stoic face she puts on every day, echoes from the months of beatings and torture and sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of several men practicing a corrupted theology.

Ibrahim swallows tears once more, explaining her greatest grief is the unknown status of so many members of her family.

Her brother, Hadi, remains missing, as does her cousin, Khairy, who pretended to be her husband to fool ISIS. The whereabouts of nearly 20 other relatives are also unknown.

“Then there are the free ones who are not living any kind of life either,” she adds.

Following his release to a refugee camp in March, Dilhad, once a spoiled and happy little boy, is now a frightened and confused 6-year-old who regularly lashes out against his mother.

Qahtan, her youngest brother, often calls from the Bajid Kandala camp. Each conversation is underwritten with anxiety as he describes how four of their female relatives await word from their husbands who were taken by ISIS three years ago.

“Sometimes, he calls me crying, saying there is no news. I just don’t know what to do,” Ibrahim said.

Ibrahim said while the coalition forces shattering the caliphate ISIS sought to establish should be welcome news, the justice sought by so many unnamed and forgotten Yazidis against men like Ali, Mehdi, Adil, Saleh and Omar is unfulfilled.

She hopes that in telling her story, the truth of what happened to the Yazidis won't disappear.

"Even if daesh is finished off, it doesn't matter as long as those who committed the crimes are not held accountable," Ibrahim said. "I want justice for my brothers, my uncles, everyone who is in captivity.

"That's what keeps me going."

Link to Article and Photos:

http://www.newspressnow.com/news/nation ... f3122.html
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