Yazidi ‘ex-sex slave’ trapped both in Iraq and in German exile

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Ashwaq Hajji
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Yazidi woman Ashwaq Haji, allegedly used by the Daesh as a sex slave, visits the Lalish temple in tribute to the Daesh’ victims from her village of Kocho near Sinjar, in Lalish, northern Iraq, on August 15, 2018. (AFP)
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Yazidi woman Ashwaq Haji, allegedly used by the Daesh as a sex slave, visits the Lalish temple in tribute to the Daesh’ victims from her village of Kocho near Sinjar, in Lalish, northern Iraq, on August 15, 2018. (AFP)
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Yazidi woman Ashwaq Haji, allegedly used by the Daesh as a sex slave, visits the Lalish temple in tribute to the Daesh’ victims from her village of Kocho near Sinjar, in Lalish, northern Iraq, on August 15, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 August 2018

Yazidi ‘ex-sex slave’ trapped both in Iraq and in German exile

  • Life in Iraq is not easy for Ashwaq or for the 3,315 other Yazidis who escaped from the Daesh
  • The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious minority that was brutally persecuted by the terrorists who despise them as heretics

LALISH: A young Yazidi woman who fled to Germany but returned home to northern Iraq says she cannot escape her Daesh captor who held her as a sex slave for three months.
Ashwaq Hajji, 19, says she ran into the man in a German supermarket in February. Traumatized by the encounter, she returned to Iraq the following month. Like many other Yazidis, she was kidnapped by Daesh when the extremists seized swaths of Iraq in the summer of 2014.
In their ancestral region of Sinjar in northwestern Iraq, thousands of Yazidi women were killed or sold off as sex slaves.
The teenager was held from Aug. 3 until Oct. 22 of 2014, when she managed to escape from the home of an Iraqi extremist using the name Abu Humam who had bought her for $100, she told AFP in the Yazidi shrine of Lalish, north of second city Mosul.
The Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious minority that was brutally persecuted by the terrorists who despise them as heretics.
Under a German government program for Iraqi refugees, Ashwaq, her mother and a younger brother were resettled in 2015 in Schwaebisch Gmuend, a town near Stuttgart.
Her refuge in Germany, where she took language lessons, was cut short on Feb. 21 when a man called out her name in a supermarket and started talking to her in German.
“He told me he was Abu Humam. I told him I didn’t know him, and then he started talking to me in Arabic,” she said.
“He told me: ‘Don’t lie, I know very well that you’re Ashwaq’,” she said, adding that he gave her home address and other details of her life in Germany.
After that experience, she immediately phoned the local police, who told her to contact a specialized department.

The judicial police in the Baden-Wuerttemberg region of southwestern Germany said an inquiry was opened on March 13 but that Ashwaq was not present to answer questions.
A spokesman for the German federal prosecutor’s office said that so far the man’s identity could not be confirmed “with certainty.”
Germany says it has opened several investigations over terrorism charges or crimes against humanity involving asylum seekers linked to extremist groups in Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan.
Ashwaq said she had viewed surveillance videos filmed in the supermarket together with German police and was ready to keep them informed of her whereabouts.
But she said that she was not willing to return to Germany for fear of seeing her captor again.
She is back in northern Iraq with her mother and brother, but living in fear because she says Abu Humam has family in Baghdad.
She wears black in a sign of mourning for five brothers and a sister still missing since their own capture by Daesh.
At a camp for the displaced in nearby Iraqi Kurdistan where he has been resettled, her father, Hajji Hamid, 53, admits returning was not an easy decision, even though the government proclaimed victory over IS at the end of last year.
“When her mother told me that she’d seen that jihadist... I told them to come back because Germany was obviously no longer a safe place for them,” he said.
Life in Iraq is also not easy for Ashwaq or for the 3,315 other Yazidis who escaped from the jihadists. A similar number are still being held or have gone missing, according to official figures.
“All the survivors have volcanos inside them, ready to explode,” warned Sara Samouqi, a psychologist who works with several Yazidis.
“Ashwaq and her family are going through terrible times.”


Egypt’s options dwindle as Nile talks break down

Updated 25 min 20 sec ago

Egypt’s options dwindle as Nile talks break down

  • Talks collapsed earlier this month over the construction of the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
  • El-Sisi said he would “never” allow Ethiopia to impose a “de facto situation” by filling the dam without an agreement

CAIRO: The latest breakdown in talks with Ethiopia over its construction of a massive upstream Nile dam has left Egypt with dwindling options as it seeks to protect the main source of freshwater for its large and growing population.

Talks collapsed earlier this month over the construction of the $5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is 60 percent complete and promises to provide much-needed electricity to Ethiopia’s 100 million people.

But Egypt, with a population of around the same size, fears that the process of filling the reservoir behind the dam could slice into its share of the river, with catastrophic consequences. Pro-government media have cast it as a national security threat that could warrant military action.

Speaking at the UN last month, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said he would “never” allow Ethiopia to impose a “de facto situation” by filling the dam without an agreement.

“While we acknowledge Ethiopia’s right to development, the water of the Nile is a question of life, a matter of existence to Egypt,” he said.

Egypt has been holding talks for years with Ethiopia and Sudan, upstream countries that have long complained about Cairo’s overwhelming share of the river, which is enshrined in treaties dating back to the British colonial era. Those talks came to an acrimonious halt earlier this month, the third time they have broken down since 2014.

“We are fed up with Ethiopian procrastination. We will not spend our lifetime in useless talks,” an Egyptian official told The Associated Press. “All options are on the table, but we prefer dialogue and political means.”

Egypt has reached out to the United States, Russia, China and Europe, apparently hoping to reach a better deal through international mediation. The White House said earlier this month it supports talks to reach a sustainable agreement while “respecting each other’s Nile water equities.”

Mohamed el-Molla, an Egyptian Foreign Ministry official, said Cairo would take the dispute to the UN Security Council if the Ethiopians refuse international mediation.

That has angered Ethiopia, which wants to resolve the dispute through the tripartite talks.

An Ethiopian official said the packages offered by Cairo so far “were deliberately prepared to be unacceptable for Ethiopia.”

“Now they are saying Ethiopia has rejected the offer, and calling for a third-party intervention,” the official added. Both the Ethiopian and the Egyptian official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the talks with the media.

The main dispute is centered on the filling of the dam’s 74-billion-cubic-meter reservoir. Ethiopia wants to fill it as soon as possible so it can generate over 6,400 Megawatts, a massive boost to the current production of 4,000 Megawatts. Ethiopia said earlier this year that the dam would start generating power by the end of 2020 and would operate at full capacity by 2022.

That has the potential to sharply reduce the flow of the Blue Nile, the main tributary to the river, which is fed by annual monsoon rains in the Ethiopian highlands. If the filling takes place during one of the region’s periodic droughts, its downstream impact could be even more severe.

Egypt has proposed no less than seven years for filling the reservoir, and for Ethiopia to adjust the pace according to rainfall, said an Egyptian Irrigation Ministry official who is a member of its negotiation team. The official also was not authorized to discuss the talks publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Nile supplies more than 90 percent of Egypt’s freshwater. Egyptians already have one of the lowest per capita shares of water in the world, at around 570 cubic meters per year, compared to a global average of 1,000. Ethiopians however have an average of 125 cubic meters per year.

Egypt wants to guarantee a minimum annual release of 40 billion cubic meters of water from the Blue Nile. The irrigation official said anything less could affect Egypt’s own massive Aswan High Dam, with dire economic consequences.

“It could put millions of farmers out of work. We might lose more than one million jobs and $1.8 billion annually, as well as $300 million worth of electricity,” he said.

The official said Ethiopia has agreed to guarantee just 31 billion cubic meters.

El-Sisi is set to meet with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, on Wednesday in the Russian city of Sochi, on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit. They may be able to revive talks, but the stakes get higher as the dam nears completion.

The International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, warned earlier this year that the “risk of future clashes could be severe if the parties do not also reach agreement on a longer-term basin-wide river management framework.”

In recent weeks there have been calls by some commentators in Egypt’s pro-government media to resort to force.
Abdallah el-Senawy, a prominent columnist for the daily newspaper el-Shorouk, said the only alternatives were internationalizing the dispute or taking military action.

“Egypt is not a small county,” he wrote in a Sunday column. “If all diplomatic and legal options fail, a military intervention might be obligatory.”
Anwar el-Hawary, the former editor of the Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, compared the dispute to the 1973 war with Israel, in which Egypt launched a surprise attack into the Sinai Peninsula.

“If we fought to liberate Sinai, it is logical to fight to liberate the water,” he wrote on Facebook. “The danger is the same in the two cases. War is the last response.”