World failing Yazidi women forced into sex slavery

Yazidi Kurdish women at a protest against Daesh in Dohuk, northern Iraq. Thousands of women and girls of the Yazidi faith were abducted, tortured and sexually abused by Daesh fighters who invaded their homeland in northwest Iraq, in 2014. (AP Photo)
Updated 06 June 2018

World failing Yazidi women forced into sex slavery

  • Many Yazidi women and girls have been brainwashed or killed in captivity, while those who have managed to escape after years of enslavement and rape are left struggling to survive without an income or identity papers.
  • Baroness Nicholson, founder and chair of the British-based AMAR Foundation which provides education and health care in the Middle East, said the world’s religions should urgently recognize the Yazidi faith.

PARIS: The world is failing Yazidi women forced into sex slavery by Daesh militants in Iraq and Syria, with 3,000 still unaccounted for, according to the head of a charity dedicated to helping survivors recover from their horrific experiences.
Murad Ismael said many Yazidi women and girls have been brainwashed or killed in captivity, while those who have 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,” said Ismael, executive director of Yazda.
“And yet the international system is failing to embrace them and help them return to normal life,” said Ismael ahead of the Foundation’s Trust Conference on modern slavery in Brussels 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.”
The Yazidi, a religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of ancient Middle Eastern religions, are regarded by Daesh as devil-worshippers.
Thousands of women and girls of the Yazidi faith were abducted, tortured and sexually abused by Daesh fighters who invaded their homeland in northwest Iraq, in 2014.
The militants were driven out a year ago, but most Yazidis have yet to return to their villages and nearly 3,000 women and children remain in captivity.
“We used to get over 100 rescued women and girls arriving to our office each month, but now we only see five or six,” said Ismael.
“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 by Daesh in 2014 and is now being supported by Yazda after being rescued, said her captors beat her 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 and chair of the British-based AMAR Foundation which provides education and health care in the Middle East, said the world’s religions should urgently recognize 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 Daesh should remain in the public consciousness forever,” she said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi declared victory over Daesh in December, five months after his forces recaptured the country’s second city Mosul in a protracted battle with the militants.
The group continues to carry out bombings, assassinations and ambushes in different areas of Iraq, and remains active in neighboring Syria.
“It’s incredible that there has been no justice, not a single trial” for the massacre and detention of 12,000 Yazidi people, Ismael said at the Trust Conference on Wednesday.
“Those (Yazidis) who survived have no hope to return to their homes, it’s all land mines and mass graves,” he added.


Syrian and Russian troops sweep into Manbij as US withdraws

Updated 15 October 2019

Syrian and Russian troops sweep into Manbij as US withdraws

  • Standoff looms in northern Syrian town of Manbij as Turkish offensive continues
  • Trump's fresh sanctions fail to halt Turkish advance

MANBIJ, Syria: Turkey ignored US sanctions and pressed on with its assault on northern Syria on Tuesday, while the Russia-backed Syrian army roared into one of the most hotly contested cities abandoned by US forces in Donald Trump’s retreat.
Reuters journalists accompanied Syrian government forces who entered the center of the city of Manbij, a flashpoint where US troops had previously conducted joint patrols with Turkey.
Russian and Syrian flags were flying from a building on the city outskirts, and from a convoy of military vehicles.
US forces announced they had pulled out of the city.
A week after reversing US policy and moving troops out of the way to allow Turkey to attack Washington’s Syrian allies, Trump announced a package of sanctions to punish Ankara.
But the measures — mainly a hike in steel tariffs and a pause in trade talks — were less robust than financial markets had expected, and Trump’s critics derided them as too feeble to have an impact.
The Turkish lira, which had fallen on the expectation of tougher US measures, recovered after the sanctions were announced, as did its bond and stock markets, with traders noting that Trump had spared Turkish banks.
Trump’s unexpected decision to withhold protection from Syria’s Kurds after a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan a week ago swiftly upended five years of US policy in the Middle East.
The withdrawal gives a free hand to Washington’s adversaries in the world’s deadliest ongoing war, namely Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies.
The United States announced on Sunday it was withdrawing its entire force of 1,000 troops from northern Syria. Its former Kurdish allies immediately forged a new alliance with Assad’s Russia-backed government, inviting the army into towns across the breadth of their territory.
Russian-backed Syrian forces moved swiftly to fill the void left by departing Americans from Manbij west of the Euphrates river, which Turkey has vowed to capture.
“We are out of Manbij,” said Col. Myles B Caggins, spokesman for the US-led coalition in Syria. Troops “are executing a deliberate withdrawal from northeast Syria.”
A group of journalists accompanied by Syrian army personnel journeyed into Manbij city where upon their arrival a group of people gathered, waving the Syrian flag and pictures of Assad.
However the reporters left when gunfire was heard and a group of some 10 young men in Kurdish YPG uniforms began breaking cameras and yelling.
Syrian state media said SDF fighters had opened fire on a march organized by the people of Manbij to welcome the army.
Trump’s pullout ends joint US-Turkish patrols of the Manbij area under a deal aimed to persuade Turkey not to invade.
Syrian state television broadcast footage of what it said was government troops entering Manbij on Tuesday, under their new deal with the Kurds. A resident inside the city told Reuters the Syrian troops were on its outskirts. Turkey-backed Syrian fighters said they would continue their advance toward Manbij.
A Reuters cameraman on the Turkish frontier reported heavy bombardment on Tuesday morning of the Syrian border town of Ras Al-Ain, where a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces reported a fierce battle was taking place.
Trump has defended his reversal of US policy as part of a plan to withdraw the United States from “endless” wars in the Middle East.
But his critics, including senior figures in his own Republican Party, cast it as a betrayal of the Kurds, loyal allies who lost thousands of fighters as the principal ground forces in Washington’s battle against Daesh.
The Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said Trump’s sanctions were too little, too late.
“His announcement of a package of sanctions against Turkey falls very short of reversing that humanitarian disaster.”
Turkey says it aims to defeat the Kurdish YPG militia, which it sees as terrorists for their links to separatists in Turkey, and to create a “safe zone” where millions of Syrian refugees can be resettled.
The United Nations says 160,000 people have fled their homes as Turkish forces advance. The Kurdish administration puts the number of displaced at 270,000.
The UN Human Rights office said on Tuesday Turkey could be held responsible for war crimes by fighters under its direction, potentially including the assassination of Hevrin Khalaf, a leading Kurdish politician killed on the side of a highway on Saturday by gunmen who posted the incident on the Internet.
Turkish-backed fighters have denied blame for her murder.
Erdogan, who has pledged to continue military operations come what may, said Turkey was giving the world a chance to bring peace to the region.
“The international community missed its opportunity to prevent the Syrian crisis from pulling an entire region into a maelstrom of instability,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “The European Union — and the world — should support what Turkey is trying to do.”
The Syrian army deployments into Kurdish-held territory evacuated by Washington are a victory for President Bashar Assad and his most powerful ally, Russia, giving them a foothold in the biggest remaining swath of the country that had been beyond their grasp.
Trump allies insisted Washington had not given its blessing to the Turkish offensive, and demanded a cease-fire.
“The United States of America simply is not going to tolerate Turkey’s invasion in Syria any further,” Vice President Mike Pence said. “We are calling on Turkey to stand down, end the violence and come to the negotiating table.”
Trump’s sanctions include reimposing steel tariffs and halting talks on a trade deal. But bilateral trade between Turkey and the United States is small — around a tenth the size of Turkey’s trade with Europe. Washington’s most effective form of economic leverage would be to hinder Turkey’s access to US financial markets, a step Trump has so far avoided.
“The sanctions are not related to banking, so the markets will have a positive perception,” said Cem Tozge, asset management director at Ata Invest.
In a potentially more damaging blow, German carmaker Volkswagen said it was postponing a final decision on whether to build a 1 billion euro ($1.1 billion) plant in Turkey, citing concern over “current developments” after international condemnation of the incursion.
European countries have criticized the offensive but have limited their response so far to announcing suspensions of arms sales, although weapons account for only a small fraction of EU-Turkish trade.
Trump said US troops would remain at a small garrison at Tanf in southern Syria “to continue to disrupt remnants” of Daesh. The base on the southern border is hundreds of miles away from the Kurdish area in the north that had previously been the main US theater.