Iraq: Yazidis to accept children of Daesh rape into community

Many of the children enslaved by militants in 2014 were separated from their parents and given to Daesh families for rearing. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 April 2019
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Iraq: Yazidis to accept children of Daesh rape into community

  • Thousands of women and girls were forced into sexual slavery when the extremists attacked Yazidi communities in northwestern Iraq
  • The Yazidi Supreme Spiritual Council issued a decree welcoming the survivors of slavery, and their children, into the Yazidi community

IRBIL, Iraq: The children of Yazidi women raped by Daesh men will be welcomed into the minority faith, a community leader said Thursday, allowing women taken as slaves by the militant group to return to Iraq from Syria.
Eido Baba Sheikh, son of the Yazidi spiritual leader Baba Sheikh, said the children of the formerly enslaved women will be treated as members of the faith, resolving one of the most difficult questions facing the community since the Daesh group’s 2014 campaign to try to exterminate the minority. Thousands of women and girls were forced into sexual slavery when the extremists attacked Yazidi communities in northwestern Iraq.
But the community shunned the women returning from captivity with children, a reflection of the deeply held Yazidi traditions to view outsiders with suspicion as a response to centuries of persecution.
US-backed Kurdish forces defeated the last fragments of the Daesh group’s self-styled “caliphate” in Syria in March, raising the possibility that thousands of missing Yazidi women and children might be found and reunited with their families.
Still, some 3,000 Yazidis are still missing. Many of the children enslaved by militants in 2014 were separated from their parents and given to Daesh families for rearing. Boys were pressed into the militants’ cub scouts, given military training, and indoctrinated in extremist ideology.
Officials at the Beit Yazidi foundation in Kurdish-administered northeast Syria said Yazidi women with children who could have returned to Iraq were choosing to stay in Syria, instead, in order not to be separated from their children.
Other women gave their young ones up for adoption to find acceptance among their community.
The Yazidi Supreme Spiritual Council issued a decree welcoming the survivors of slavery, and their children, into the Yazidi community, on Wednesday.
Murad Ismael, a founder of the global Yazidi charity Yazda, said it will nevertheless take time for the community in Iraq to accept the mothers and their children, because of the stigma of rape.
“It will take a couple of years for the community to digest this fully,” he said.
He said many women and children will have to seek resettlement in other countries, some to escape the stigma of their situation, and to find psychosocial services to heal after the trauma of slavery.
The community sent two representatives to search for Yazidi women and children in the camps in northeast Syria, where tens of thousands of civilians who survived the Daesh caliphate are waiting to be returned to their places of origin, said Eido Baba Sheikh.
He said it is believed that there could be Yazidi children among foreign or Daesh families in the camps, a result of the sale of Yazidis under the caliphate. Complicating the search will be that many of the children may have never learned to identify as Yazidis, or to speak Kurmanji, the language of the community. Women and older children may have started to identify with their captors, as well, confounding search efforts.
And though the community will recognize the children of Yazidi survivors as Yazidis, they will still face legal difficulties in Iraq, said Eido Baba Sheikh. Under the country’s family laws, a child is registered under the nationality and religion of their father, and it is unclear whether Iraq will allow Yazidi survivors to register their children as Iraqi Yazidis when there are questions about the children’s patrimony.
Also on Thursday, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish regional government, asked for continued US support to allow Iraqis displaced by the war with IS to return to their homes, according to a State Department statement on a call between Barzani and Vice President Mike Pence.
Iraq’s Kurdish region hosts more than 1 million displaced people, including many of the 200,000 Yazidis forced to flee their homes when the Daesh militants attacked their communities in 2014.


The Egyptian entrepreneurs improving young lives through the power of art

Updated 20 September 2019

The Egyptian entrepreneurs improving young lives through the power of art

  • The Doodle Factory, founded by Yasmin Khamis and Farah ElMasry, empowers vulnerable children through their personal drawings
  • The Doodle Factory was launched as a for-profit social enterprise in 2017 with personal funds

CAIRO: Two young women are using the power of art to improve the lives of young people in Cairo.

The Doodle Factory, founded by Yasmin Khamis and Farah El-Masry, is an Egyptian brand that collaborates with different stakeholders to help vulnerable children through their personal drawings.

It uses children’s designs to decorate everyday lifestyle products for consumers, such as handbags, pencil cases and place mats. Proceeds from product sales go to funding the medical, educational and sheltering needs of children in communities identified by partner NGOs.

Khamis, 27, and El-Masry, 26, both have backgrounds working for Egyptian NGOs. However, the two Egyptian nationals decided to launch their business idea independently to “bring beauty back to community,” said Khamis.

The Doodle Factory was launched as a for-profit social enterprise in 2017 with personal funds. The venture —  aimed at 18- to 35-year-old female consumers —  has gone on to sell around 20,000 products a year all over Egypt.

The pair work with a network of local NGOs to select welfare projects that target children’s health, education and shelter needs.

Doodle Factory helpS vulnerable children through their drawings. (Supplied)

First, they visit a hospital or school where they hold an art session, providing children with coloring pens and paper.

The Doodle Factory then takes the children’s drawings and passes them through a design process.

“We extract the elements, create the design and put it on the products we sell. A percentage of the sales goes to the children who completed the original drawing. It depends on the collection,” said Khamis.

Each collection goes toward a mission, such as helping to build a school, paying for a child’s heart operation or providing clean water to homes.

“When a child draws and then gets clean water in their house in a rural area, they are not just helping themselves, they are also helping their family and the community. We try to make the process as simple as possible, but the impact is huge for them,” Khamis said.

There will be a lot of small failures, but they will end up making a larger learning curve 

“For me, it’s about creating a brand and an organization that really helps the children it promises to help. Our purpose is to create designs and products using children’s creativity and playfulness to pay for a better life for them.”

Today, the Doodle Factory has five employees and has broken even. Khamis advises aspiring business owners to “get their numbers straight” from the start, “especially if it’s a field that you’re not an expert in.”

She also warns entrepreneurs to expect “lots of daily ups and downs.”

“There will be a lot of small failures, but they will end up making a larger learning curve,” Khamis said.

“If you have a purpose and great idea, it’s important just to get going —  that’s the important thing. But along the way, entrepreneurs need to have the commitment and the responsibility to keep going with the project on its bad and good days.

“Right now, in the day-to-day business, we’re doing much better than we were a long time ago,” she says.

For Khamis, the key is to achieve the right balance. “It’s a business that needs to make a profit because without the profit, we wouldn’t exist,” she said. “But definitely, the impact is as important as making a profit.”

 

This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.