Why Yazidi survivors of Daesh enslavement and their children are stuck in limbo in Iraq

Special Children believed to be from the Yazidi community, who were captured by Daesh fighters, are pictured after being evacuated from the embattled Daesh holdout of Baghouz. (AFP/File Photo)
Children believed to be from the Yazidi community, who were captured by Daesh fighters, are pictured after being evacuated from the embattled Daesh holdout of Baghouz. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 01 February 2022

Why Yazidi survivors of Daesh enslavement and their children are stuck in limbo in Iraq

Children believed to be from the Yazidi community, who were captured by Daesh fighters, are pictured after being evacuated from the embattled Daesh holdout of Baghouz. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Yazidi spiritual leaders rejected children born in Daesh captivity because their fathers were not Yazidi
  • Iraq’s parliament passed the Yazidi Survivors Law in March 2021, yet victims of rape are still shunned 

DUBAI: From outside, the unassuming two-story house in Irbil, capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, resembles a regular family daycare center. It echoes with the happy shrieks of children playing behind its high walls.

However, the compound holds a closely guarded secret: These are the children of Yazidi women who were raped in captivity by Daesh militants.

The extremists tore through Sinjar, ancestral home of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, on Aug. 3, 2014. Some families fled in terror and sought refuge on nearby Mount Sinjar, where they were left exposed to the elements, without food or water.

Those unable to escape found themselves surrounded by black-clad militants who massacred the men and sent the boys to training camps, where they were forced to convert to the group’s warped interpretation of Islam.

The Yazidi women and girls, meanwhile, were held captive, to be distributed to the militants as sex slaves and domestic servants. They were taken deep into Daesh-held territory in western Iraq and neighboring Syria, where they were sold as chattel at medieval-style slave markets.

Many chose suicide rather than submit to rape and servitude. Others would end up carrying their rapists’ children.

Following the territorial defeat of Daesh — first in Iraq in late 2017, then in Syria in early 2019 — many of the captive women and girls managed to escape or were ransomed by family and government authorities.


* 3,000 Yazidis murdered by Daesh in 2014 siege.

* 7,000 Yazidi women sexually abused by militants.

* 60,000 Yazidis now living in Germany.

While some took their children with them, others were separated from them. Physically and emotionally scarred by years of abuse, many were taken in by aid agencies or sent to other countries for specialist treatment.

The accelerated flight of Yazidis following the depredations of Daesh terrorists has brought the ancient community in Iraq to the brink of extinction.

Those women who wanted to return to their homelands following their liberation were presented with a stark choice: Abandon the children fathered by their Daesh captors or forever be exiled.

The decision by Yazidi elders to reject the children of Daesh seems callous and anachronistic to many observers. According to the Supreme Yazidi Spiritual Council, however, it is theologically impossible for anyone, including children, to convert to the Yazidi faith; they must be born to two Yazidi parents.

Iraq’s Yazidis are a symbol of the suffering caused by Daesh during its rein over vast swathes of Syria and Iraq. (AFP/File Photo)

The Yazidi form one of the oldest ethnic religious groups in the world. They are now spread thinly across the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe, having faced repeated bouts of genocide and persecution for their beliefs.

In the eyes of Daesh, the Yazidi are infidels and devil worshippers who are to be exterminated, their persecution justified by Shariah on account of their esoteric beliefs.

“While I have the utmost respect for the Yazidi religion, I believe the issue of reuniting the mothers with their children is not a religious one,” said Peter Galbraith, a former US diplomat, who has played a leading role in efforts to return children to their mothers.

“It is a fundamental human right. The mothers have the right to their children and the children have the right to their mothers,” he told Arab News.

The theological case for the rejection of the children is not the only obstacle. Another complication is Article 26 of the Iraqi Nationality Law, which stipulates that if a child’s father is Muslim the child must inherit the father’s religious status.

Displaced Iraqi children from the Yazidi community, who fled violence between Daesh and Peshmerga fighters in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, play in the snow at Dawodiya camp for internally displaced people in the Kurdish city of Dohuk. (AFP/File Photo)

“It is agreed by all that Daesh were not real Muslims — their twisted savagery is not a real representation of the religion,” Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament, told Arab News. “Yet according to Iraqi law their children have been registered as Muslims.”

A report published in 2020 by human rights monitors Amnesty International, titled The Legacy of Terror: Plight of the Yazidi Survivors, featured accounts by several women of how they were forced to make the heart-wrenching decision of whether to give up their children or their identity.

Hanan, 24, was persuaded by her uncle to leave her daughter at an orphanage, on the understanding that she could visit whenever she wanted. But after the child had been dropped off, Hanan’s uncle told her: “Forget your daughter.”

Sana, 22, took her daughter with her when she was rescued. After daily threats, however, she decided to leave the child with an aid agency.

“In that moment it felt like my backbone broke, my whole body collapsed,” she told Amnesty.

All of the women interviewed for the report displayed signs of psychological trauma and several said they had contemplated suicide. Few have any way to communicate with their children.

Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community carry their children as they cross the Iraqi-Syrian border at the Fishkhabur crossing, in northern Iraq, on August 11, 2014. (AFP/File Photo)

“What happened was a real catastrophe and the women who were raped were not only victimized but also faced more problems when the children were born,” said Dakhil.

“It is a human matter; it is motherhood, despite it coming from rape. We cannot force the girls to leave or abandon their children. There must be a solution. There have been girls who were convinced that what happened to them was abnormal and so have decided to give up their kids.”

Women who were able to reunite with their children are not faring much better; they are forced to live in secrecy in Irbil, fearing for their safety should they be discovered.

In 2019, Iraq’s President Barham Salih drafted the Yazidi Female Survivors Bill, which became law in March last year. It represented a watershed moment in efforts to address the legacy of Daesh crimes against Yazidis and other minorities, as it officially recognized acts of genocide and established a framework for the provision of financial support, and other forms of redress, to survivors.

In focusing institutional attention on the female survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, the law placed Iraq among the first countries in the Arab world to recognize the rights of such survivors and take steps to redress their grievances in line with international standards.

Almost a year later, however, little has been achieved in terms of reparations for survivors.


* Yazidis revere both the Qur’an and the Bible but much of their own tradition is oral.

* It is not possible to convert to Yazidism; adherents must be born into it.

* An estimated 550,000 Yazidis lived in Iraq before the Aug. 2014 Daesh invasion.

“The vote to approve the bill has been passed; the only problem lies with actual implementation, which hasn’t really started,” said Dakhil.

“The government claims allocating money is a problem but this is unacceptable, as these people are in dire need of assistance and aid. The bill was created for this issue. We will try our best to implement it fully.”

Pari Ibrahim, director of the Free Yazidi Foundation, told Arab News: “The issue of those Yazidi women who have children born from rape is the most challenging one for the Yazidi community.

“Our position, as a Yazidi women-led organization, is that the final decision of the individual survivor is more important than any other view, including those of family members or religious leaders.”

Several of the women want to move to Australia to live with other Yazidi survivors. The Netherlands is also touted as a potential option. However, border restrictions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have slowed the asylum process.

Members of Daesh parading with a tank in a street in the northern rebel-held Syrian city of Raqqa. (AFP/Handout Welayay Raqa)

“The best solution is for them to be resettled abroad in another country, where they can live without stigma,” said Ibrahim.

“But no matter what, their rights and their wishes should be respected after all the suffering they have endured. This issue is intensely painful for the Yazidi community — but not more painful than the trauma inflicted upon Yazidi survivors. We must respect and defend their rights.”

For those women and children spurned by their community, neglected by the state and confined to an anonymous compound in Irbil, few options remain other than to wait and hope for an opportunity to leave their tainted homeland behind for good.

“I think the solution lies with international states and humanitarian (nongovernmental organizations),” Dakhil said. “These women should be taken abroad where they can live without fear.”

Seven injured, two seriously, in attack on Jerusalem bus: police, medics

Israeli security inspect a bus after an attack outside Jerusalem's Old City, August 14, 2022. (AFP)
Israeli security inspect a bus after an attack outside Jerusalem's Old City, August 14, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 14 August 2022

Seven injured, two seriously, in attack on Jerusalem bus: police, medics

Israeli security inspect a bus after an attack outside Jerusalem's Old City, August 14, 2022. (AFP)

JERUSALEM: Seven people were injured, two of them critically, after a shooting attack on a bus in Jerusalem’s Old City, Israeli police and medics said early Sunday.
“The police were informed of a shooting of a bus ... Police have cordoned off the scene and are searching for a suspect who fled,” the police said.
Israel’s emergency medical services, the Magen David Adom (MDA), called the incident a “terror attack in the Old City.”
“We were on scene very quickly. On Ma’ale Hashalom St. we saw a passenger bus standing in the middle of the road, bystanders called us to treat two males around 30 years old who were on the bus with gunshot wounds,” MDA paramedics said in a statement.
Bus driver Daniel Kanievsky said the attack occurred near King David’s Tomb.
“I was coming from the Western Wall. The bus was full of passengers. I stopped at the station of the Tomb of David. At this moment starts the shootings. Two people outside I see falling, two inside were bleeding. Everybody panicked,” he told reporters at the scene.
Since March, 19 people — mostly Israeli civilians inside Israel — have been killed in attacks mostly by Palestinians. Three Israeli Arab attackers were also killed.
In the aftermath, Israeli authorities increased operations in the occupied West Bank.
More than 50 Palestinians have been killed, including fighters and civilians, in operations and incidents in the West Bank since then.
Last week saw three days of intense conflict between Israel and Islamic Jihad militants in the densely populated Palestinian enclave of Gaza.
At least 49 Palestinians, including Islamic Jihad fighters but also children, died in the latest violence, which ended last Sunday after Egypt negotiated a truce.

Four Yemeni soldiers killed, 25 wounded in Houthi attacks during truce

Four Yemeni soldiers killed, 25 wounded in Houthi attacks during truce
Updated 13 August 2022

Four Yemeni soldiers killed, 25 wounded in Houthi attacks during truce

Four Yemeni soldiers killed, 25 wounded in Houthi attacks during truce
  • US envoy Tim Lenderking says international community has made ‘significant progress’ toward ending the war

JEDDAH: Yemen’s army claimed on Saturday that four of its soldiers were killed and 25 more wounded in Houthi attacks, accusing the Iran-backed militia of breaching a United Nations-brokered truce hundreds of times in the past week.

The international community is pressing the Houthis to open roads in Taiz and turn the truce into a lasting peace settlement to end the war.

The army’s media center said in a statement that the Houthis committed 351 violations last week alone by shelling and mounting ground attacks on government troops, launching explosive-rigged drones, gunning down army troops, mobilizing new forces and creating new military posts in Taiz, Hajjah, Marib, Hodeidah, Dhale and Abyan.

Displaced Yemenis receive aids of tents, mattresses and bedding, after their camp was exposed to heavy rain that damaged their tents in the Khokha district of the country’s western province of Hodeida. (AFP)

Under the truce that came into effect on April 2 and has been renewed twice since, both sides agreed to stop fighting, to facilitate the departure of commercial flights from Sanaa, to ease restrictions on the movement of fuel ships through Hodeidah port, and to open roads in Taiz and other provinces.

Yemen’s government and military officials have warned that the continuation of deadly strikes by the Houthis and the failure to lift their seven-year siege on Taiz would jeopardize the truce and efforts to end the war.

Residents of Taiz said on Saturday that the Houthis had fired a number of artillery rounds at A-Shemasi neighborhood in the east of Taiz, causing large explosions. It is not known whether there were any casualties.

People in Taiz have repeatedly complained that the Houthis have not honored the truce and continue to strike densely populated districts.  

Despite local and international pressure, the Houthis have rejected the UN’s proposal to open a main road and four small roads around Taiz, insisting on opening just one narrow, unpaved road.

In New York, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general, said on Friday that talks over opening roads in Taiz and other governorates were “still ongoing.”

“What we have seen since this ceasefire has been agreed to is a good amount of flights going in and out of Sana’a Airport,” he added during his daily press briefing.

US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking said that the international community has made “significant progress” toward ending the war in Yemen and that his priority is to get roads in Taiz open, add flights to more destinations from Sanaa airport, and to accelerate salary payments to public servants in Houthi-controlled areas.

Background of Rushdie attacker sheds light on Khomeini sympathizers in US

Background of Rushdie attacker sheds light on Khomeini sympathizers in US
Updated 14 August 2022

Background of Rushdie attacker sheds light on Khomeini sympathizers in US

Background of Rushdie attacker sheds light on Khomeini sympathizers in US
  • Lebanese-American Hadi Matar signals ties with Tehran-backed Hezbollah

CHICAGO / NEW YORK / WASHINGTON, DC: Hadi Matar, the 24-year-old New Jersey suspect charged with attempted murder over a vicious knife attack on author Salman Rushdie on Friday, is believed to have been motivated by pro-Iranian regime sympathies and the death fatwa placed on the novelist in 1989 by the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

Rushdie was speaking at a literary festival in upstate New York when Matar rushed onto the stage and stabbed the prize-winning author multiple times, including in the face, arm and abdomen, police allege.

The suspect had a pass to attend the literary conference hosted by the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York, according to police.

Hospital officials said that Rushdie, 75, is likely to lose an eye as a result of the attack.

The celebrated author suffered nerve damage to one arm, a serious injury to his liver and is on a ventilator.

Although police officials investigating the attack have not speculated on Matar’s motives, or possible official or unofficial ties to extremist pro-Iranian groups, many experts linked the incident to Iran’s longstanding, extremist terrorist agenda.

Matar’s Facebook cover page, which was widely shared on social media, shows the suspect is a follower of the Tehran regime’s hard-line agenda.

The page includes images of Khomeini, the regime’s founder, and current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, leaving no doubt about Matar’s indoctrination and sympathies with the Iranian regime.

“The attack on Salman Rushdie by a reportedly pro-Khomenei individual would seem to qualify as an act of terrorism. The documented threats to Americans by Iran are certainly terrorism,” Norman Roule, an adviser to the United Against Nuclear Iran coalition, based in Washington, posted on Twitter.

“How would we have responded if these were AQ-related attacks? Why the difference?”



Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the Washington-based Arab Center, a think tank focusing on US foreign policy in the Middle East, told Arab News that pockets of pro-Iranian activists exist in the US, but usually stay under the radar.

Jahshan said that he believed Matar might be a “lone wolf” motivated by the Iranian regime’s longstanding fatwa, and rhetoric against Rushdie and other Western officials, but is surprised the attack was carried out now.

“One would think, after so many years, this fatwa issued by Iran and supported by many in the region, including in Lebanon, has somewhat dissipated, diminished, if you will, in intensity and in emotional attachment to it,” Jahshan told Arab News.

The fatwa against Rushdie was tempered in 1998 after Khomeini’s death, with the Iranian leader’s successors saying they no longer supported calls for Rushdie’s killing. But the fatwa was never officially revoked.

Jahshan said that the fatwa still holds relevance for some who continue to support Iran.

“I'm certainly not surprised that there are people who still take these things seriously. Support (for) terror attacks against civilians for political reasons have diminished in many parts of the world, but they continue to exist at least on the individual level,” he said.

“So the fact that it’s an individual who doesn’t seem to be tied to any particular organization or set-up, whether in this country or outside, is not surprising. That’s the fad right now. That’s a common trend. But, again, one has to wait for the investigation to proceed and see what connections they might come up with after the investigation.”

Immediately after the attack, pro-Iranian and pro-Hezbollah social media feeds lit up with praise for the alleged assailant, but many were later removed.

The IranArabic Twitter account with more than 90,000 followers called Matar a “Lebanese hero who stabbed Satan Salman Rushdie, author of 'The Satanic Verses,' in which he insulted the Prophet of guidance and mercy, the Messenger of God, Muhammad.”

Some activists in Detroit, where Lebanese Shiites and support for Hezbollah are strong, said they are not surprised by the attack, adding that pro-Iranian activism there is often high profile, but also that they feared speaking out publicly because of fears for their safety.

“People are afraid to speak out here in Detroit against Iran or Hezbollah,” one Detroit activist said, asking not to be identified.

The FBI issued an alert in 2020 warning of possible terrorism from pro-Iranian sympathizers and agents in the US after the drone assassination of Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s Quds Force and responsible for a series of violent terrorist attacks against anti-Iran regime dissidents.

The attack on Rushdie comes after the US Justice Department revealed a plot to assassinate former US National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Shahram Poursafi, identified by US officials as a member of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, is currently wanted by the FBI on charges related to the murder-for-hire plot.

Matar was born in the US, but may not have escaped the extremist indoctrination that many young people, and even children, are forced to go through in pro-Iranian Hezbollah strongholds. Exporting the extremist ideology of the Iranian "revolution" is a key goal of its proxies in the Middle East.

But they seem to have also established a presence in the American heartland as well.

Analysts discovered this summer that a pro-Iran mosque in Houston was forcing young children to take part in chants called “Salam Farmande,” or “Hello Commander” in Farsi. The ceremony, which has been posted on social media, closely mirrors Iranian and Hezbollah indoctrination intended to instill total loyalty to Khamenei.

In a recent report published by the Middle East Forum, a think tank that monitors extremism, Adrian Calamel, an analyst specializing in the Middle East and terrorism, said that the song is part of the recruitment drive for the Iranian regime.

“It’s enlisting the children to be the next generation of martyrs,” he said. “The song itself says, ‘we are ready to die for the commander.’”

Calamel warns that Shiite mosques similar to the one in Houston are centers of Iranian influence in the US.

“Al-Qaeda can’t set up these centers, Daesh can’t set up these centers, but Iran can,” he said.

It is unclear how Matar was radicalized, but clearly there is a broader trend of political and religious indoctrination that is being pushed by sympathizers of Iran’s brand of religious extremism that justify and encourage attacks like the one against Rushdie.

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in major Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in major Cabinet reshuffle
Updated 13 August 2022

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in major Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in major Cabinet reshuffle
  • The Cabinet shake-up was approved by parliament in an emergency session and affected 13 portfolios, including health, education, culture, local development and irrigation ministries
  • President El-Sisi said the shake-up came in consultation with Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly

CAIRO : An emergency session of parliament on Saturday approved several cabinet changes in Egypt’s first major reshuffle since 2019, with 13 ministers moved, the National Media Authority reported.
A statement said the House of Representatives had approved “all the nominations set forth in a letter from President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi regarding a ministerial reshuffle.”
El-Sisi’s official Facebook page said the president had urged parliament to discuss the changes in the more than 30-strong cabinet, which were agreed following consultations with Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli.
The president said in a Facebook post that the changes aimed at “developing the governmental performance in some important files ... which contribute to protecting the state’s interests and capabilities.”
There has been only one reshuffle since Madbouli took office in 2018, in December 2019.
Following parliamentary approval, the new ministers are now expected to be sworn in.
The reshuffle does not include the key defense, interior, finance or foreign ministries.
But it does appoint new ministers of health, tourism and antiquities, commerce and industry, irrigation, civil aviation, immigration, education, higher education, military production, manpower, public business sector, culture and local development.
Banker Ahmed Issa took over the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry, replacing Khaled Al-Anani who led Egypt’s efforts in recent years to revive the tourism industry, a pillar of the economy. Such efforts included displaying ancient discoveries, opening new museums to attract international tourists.
Hani Sweilam, professor of water resources management at Germany’s RWTH Aachen University, was named as Irrigation Minister. He replaced Mohammed Abdel-Aty who oversaw years of technical negations with Ethiopia over its controversial dam on the Nile River’s main tributary.
The decision to replace outgoing irrigation minister Aty comes just a day after Addis Ababa announced it had finished its third filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
The Ethiopian water project damming the Nile is proceeding without agreement from downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
The new irrigation minister is Hani Sewilam, a professor of sustainable development and water resources management at the American University in Cairo.
He assumes the post amid increasing fears over water security and an impending water crisis.
Other notable swaps include tourism and antiquities. Khaled Anani is credited with several high-profile attempts to revive Egypt’s vital tourism industry, and he is succeeded by Ahmed Issa Abu Hussein.
The health portfolio has been filled by Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, the acting minister since October.
Abdel Ghaffar’s former post of higher education minister will be filled by his deputy, Ayman Ashour.
Another notable appointment is Egyptian Air Force chief Mohamed Abbas Helmy, who takes on the civil aviation portfolio.
The government has held talks in recent months with the International Monetary Fund for a new loan to support its reform program and to help address challenges caused by the war in Europe. The government has received pledges from wealthy Arab Gulf nations for billions of dollars in investments, some of which are for private industry.
(With AFP and AP)

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials
Updated 13 August 2022

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials
  • The agency said nine other migrants survived while two remain missing in the desert

CAIRO: Libyan authorities said Saturday they found at least 15 migrants dead in the desert on the borders with Sudan, the latest tragedy involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe via perilous journeys through the conflict-wrecked nation.
The Department for Combating Irregular Migration in the southeastern city of Kufra said the migrants were on their way from Sudan to Libya when their vehicle broke down due to lack of fuel.
The agency said nine other migrants survived while two remain missing in the desert. There were women and children among the migrants, but the agency did not elaborate on how many. It also did not reveal causes of the migrants’ death, but said they did not have enough food and water.
It said the migrants were all Sudanese — from a country in turmoil for years. The migrants likely attempted to reach western Libya in efforts to board trafficking boats to Europe.
The agency posted images on Facebook showing bodies purportedly of the dead migrants who were later burned in the desert.
The tragedy was the latest in Libya’s sprawling desert. In June, authorities in Kufra said they found the bodies of 20 migrants who they said died of thirst in the desert after their vehicle broke down close to the border with Chad.
Libya has in recent years emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders with six nations. The migrants are then packed into ill-equipped rubber boats and set off on risky sea voyages.