Human Rights

Freed Yazidi Slaves Tell of Suffering and Horrors Inflicted by ISIS

Yazidi women who have been freed from slavery at the hands of ISIS have described their time in captivity to German psychologist Jan Ilhan Kizilhan, who runs a treatment program for female victims of the terrorist group. Some of the harrowing ordeals they experienced are recounted in a recent profile (Google link) of Kizilhan by The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial writer Sohrab Ahmari.

When ISIS overran the Yazidi town of Sinjar last year, sexual slavery was imposed on a number of the community’s women. “For the ISIS jihadists, slavery and the attendant sexual violence are intended to shatter non-Muslim societies,” Ahmari wrote.

One of the women who Ahmari spoke to witnessed the brutal torture and murder of her two-year-old daughter after the child failed to recite Islamic prayers correctly. Afterwards, the ISIS commander who had captured the woman said, “The Yazidis are not believers. We can do anything we want with you.” Even after her daughter’s death, the commander raped the woman, threatening to kill her son if she refused to submit. Eventually, the woman was sold back to her family along with her two surviving children.

Ahmari described Kizilhan’s rehabilitation program and the personal history that drove him to help the victims.

How do you begin to heal scars like this? Mr. Kizilhan’s solution is to bring 1,000 of the severest cases to Baden-Württemberg, in southwest Germany, for a period of intensive treatment. The €95 million ($100 million) “preventative asylum” project is funded by the Baden-Württemberg state government. For Mr. Kizilhan, himself a Turkish-born Yazidi who immigrated to Germany at age 6, it’s personal. Islamic State doesn’t see Yazidis like him as human.

“As a scientist you learn that ideology can blind people,” he says. “In the morning they rape children, and at night when they go home they’re loving fathers and husbands.” To treat ISIS as just another al Qaeda-style terror group, he warns, is to ignore the “Nazi-like,” genocidal evolution of its Islamist worldview.

Kizilhan told Ahmari that despite the great suffering he sees among the women he’s helping, he “[gets] strength” from listening to their stories. “They tell you about horrific things, but they are still able to have perspective,” he explained. “This kind of trauma will always be part of your life. But the key is to not forget that it is not your whole life.”

Earlier this year, the BBC broadcast a feature about another aid worker who has been working to free Yazidi women. The survivors who she interviewed shared some of the horrors they experienced in captivity.

[Photo: BBC News / YouTube ]