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.


Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

Updated 11 August 2020

Lebanon family restless as it awaits missing ‘heroes’

  • Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast
  • The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors

QARTABA, Lebanon: Three firefighters. One Lebanese family. The same restless wait. Rita Hitti has not slept a wink since the Beirut port blast, when her firefighting son, nephew and son-in-law went missing.
“In one piece or several, we want our sons back,” she told AFP from the Hitti family’s home in the mountain town of Qartaba, north of Beirut.
“We have been waiting for the remains for six days,” she added, dark circles under her eyes.
Najib Hitti, 27, Charbel Hitti, 22 and Charbel Karam, 37, all relatives, left together in one firetruck to douse a port blaze believed to have sparked the August 4 mega-blast that killed 160 people and wounded at least 6,000 others across town.
They were among the first rescuers at the scene. They have not been heard of since.
Near the entrance to their Qartaba home, the three men are praised as “heroes” in a huge banner unfurled over a wall.
The double exposure shot shows them in the foreground dressed sharply in suits.
In the background, the blast’s now-infamous pink plume rises above their heads as they try to douse a fire.
An eerie calm filled the stone-arched living room, where dozens of relatives and neighbors gathered around Rita, the mother of Najib Hitti.
The women were mum, the men whispered between themselves, the young shuffled in and out of the room, quietly.
Karlen, Rita’s daughter, looked among the most sombre, with her husband Charbel Karam, brother Najib and cousin Charbel all missing.
Sitting next to her mother on the couch, she fought back tears and did not say a single word.
The Hittis’ hopes of seeing their loved ones alive have dimmed since the army on Sunday said it had concluded search and rescue operations with little to no hope of finding survivors.
The health ministry has said the number of missing stands at less than 20, while the army announced it had lifted five corpses from beneath the rubble.
A large blaze was still ripping through the blast site when the Hittis and other relatives of port employees dashed to the disaster zone to check on their loved ones.
But they were stopped by security forces.
“I told them I would know my boys from their smell,” Rita said she told an officer who barred her from the site.
“Let me enter to search for them and when I whiff their smell I will know where they are,” the mother said she pleaded.
Ever since, her hopes have gradually dwindled, but her anger is boiling.
Lebanese authorities have pledged a swift investigation but the exact cause of the blast remains unclear.
Authorities say it was triggered by a fire of unknown origin that broke out in a port warehouse where a huge pile of highly volatile ammonium nitrate fertilizer had been left unsecured for years.
Whatever the cause of the fire was, the popular consensus is that the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of officials in charge of the port as well those who have ruled Lebanon country for decades.
“We gave them heroes and they returned them to us as ‘martyrs’,” Rita said, scoffing at the label officials have used to brand blast casualties.
“What martyrs? What were they protecting? The noxious things (authorities) were hiding in the port?” she asked rhetorically.
“They are martyrs of treachery.”
George, father of Charbel Hitti, also rushed to the blast site to look for his son and relatives after the explosion.
“I started to scream their names: Najib, Charbel... I was like a mad man,” he told AFP.
“We waited until 6 in the morning the next day for clues to what happened,” he said.
“In the end, I started crying.”
He did manage, however, to get one piece of information from a port security official close to the family who was at the scene of the blaze when the firefighting team first arrived on August 4.
The security official had told him that the firefighters were trying to break open the door to the ammonium nitrate warehouse because they could not find the keys before the explosion ripped the whole place apart.
A week has since passed and George said hopes of finding the three men alive have faded.
Assuming they are dead, George said he now wants one thing: “We just want DNA test results that are compatible with those of Charbel, Najib and Charbel,” he said.
“Imagine. This is everything we now wish for.”