WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT
These stories are the result of interviews made in October 2019 with Yazidi survivors who were captured by ISIS in August 2014. The four women told their stories while shedding a lot of tears, because of what they experienced while in ISIS captivity.
The interviews were conducted in different locations in the Duhok governorate of the Zakho district, in Iraqi Kurdistan.
13 October 2019
S.A.A. was born in 2003 in Kocho village. She was in 5th grade in primary school, from a moderate family, and lived a normal life as all other children in Kocho village.
On the 3rd of August 2014, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacked Sinjar district and seized Kocho village for 15 days. When ISIS controlled the village, they offered villagers two options: either convert to Islam, or be killed and thrown into mass graves.
ISIS members took S.A.A. to the school in Kocho village as a sex slave, and then transferred her with other girls and women to Solagh village for two days, and then to Tal Afar district for 15 days. After that, they moved her to Shiite homes that had been abandoned when ISIS entered Tal Afar district, and they stayed there for 4 months. After that, they moved S.A.A. to Galaxy halls (occasions hall) in Mosul for a month, and then they moved her with all the other captured women and girls to Raqqa in Syria for a month. Then they moved them back to Iraq to Qaim region in Anbar province for 4 months, and then to the Turkish border for 15 days. Next, they moved her back to Raqqa in Syria for two weeks, and then to Abu Kamal area for 2 years. From Abu-Kamal area to Hageen for a duration of 6 months, to Baghouz for two months, and finally to Hall camp for a month.
During all of these transfers, S.A.A. was being raped by ISIS members every day, and tortured if she did not obey their desires. S.A.A. was liberated from Hall camp by the Kurdish PKK on the 25th of March 2019, and taken to Yazidi House (a Yazidi center in Syria that cares for Yazidi affairs, especially survivors in Syria). The Yazidi House transported her to Iraq to her Khanasor complex in Sinjar, and then she moved to the Zakho district in Iraqi Kurdistan.
During the period of her kidnapping, S.A.A. was subjected to the most severe kinds of physical torture, sexual slavery, and also sale. S.A.A also said: “When there were clashes between ISIS and the Kurdish SDF in Baghouz, everyone was thinking about themselves, and ISIS provided us with neither water nor food.”
Now, S.A.A. lives with the rest of her family and relatives in the Zakho district, and she is integrating into her reality and her new life. She is also trying to complete her studies and make up for the school years that she missed.
10 October 2019
A.K.I. is twenty years old, from Kocho village. On the 3rd of August 2014, she was captured with her family when her village was seized by ISIS for 15 days. She offered the following testimony:
“I was very happy with my family before the extermination of our village, and I was attending family and social parties continually. And I was interested in studying, despite its difficulty in recent times after the risks of terrorist attacks on our village near the Arab desert villages and Kairwan region, which was a source of terrorists.
On the 3rd of August 2014, ISIS surrounded our village and asked the mukhtar to declare their Islam and change their religion and faith from Yazidi, or the village would be completely annihilated, and gave him a period of 13 days.”
She went on: “The mukhtar met with the people of the village, terror and fear were rising from men, women and children’s faces, and we had no other choice rather than raising our hands towards the sky.
Everyone agreed not to convert to Islam, and not to change their religion under any circumstances. And they told ISIS that they won’t leave their religion and faith. However, the ISIS reaction was very ugly, and they gathered all the villagers, children, women, and men in the village’s school and informed us that we would be given an opportunity to go to the Mount Sinjar, where other Yazidis had escaped, in exchange for giving them the money, gold and jewelry that we had.
We collected everything we owned, and even wedding rings that were held by married women. After we gathered everything we owned, they asked men to get into cars. After they took the groups of men, terror and fear spread among us, especially after we heard shooting nearby. But we could not imagine that they would kill all the men. After they separated and took all the men, they took us (women, children and girls) to Solagh Institute, and from there, they separated elderly women and killed them, firing at the institute. They moved children and women to Tal Afar, and began the sale and rape against us. We were under torture from the first day of capture to the last day when we survived from Baghouz area in Syria, in May 2019.
ISIS killed my father and brother and captured all the other members of my family with our relatives. And from there, they traded us. And my mother committed suicide because of the crimes that the caliphate state’s members committed against us. Every day we were raped with the ugliest types of sexuality. And they called us infidels because we are Yazidis.
The majority of those who attacked our village were from Mitiota and Khatuna Arab tribes from the neighboring Arab villages. They were known to us, and we had a good neighboring relationship. But overnight, they moved and became our enemies and committed terrible crimes against us.
I now live in the Zakho district, in Iraqi Kurdistan with my uncle, who is also a survivor. We are 7 male and female survivors, and we have no shelter, no support. We lack the simplest aspects of life.”
13 October 2019
K.K.A. was born in Kocho in 1984. She was from a poor family that depended on agriculture and livestock in the village, as the majority of the people of Sinjar district were dependent on agriculture and animal husbandry. Because of the hard situation that her family was going through, she could not attend school. She spent her youth at work helping her family. K.K.A. married a man named I.K, who was also from Kocho and was a military affiliate. She lived a settled married life and gave birth to a son. However, after a short period of time, her husband was martyred in one of the military attacks. After that, K.K.A. lived as a widow with her child.
In addition to all of these tragedies, K.K.A. was kidnapped by ISIS after she tried to escape from her village when ISIS attacked them on the 3rd of August 2014. ISIS kidnapped her with her son from Sinjar district and detained her in the center of Sinjar, and then moved her to Baaj district, then to Badush, then to Tal Afar, and then to Syria, until she was finally saved by the Kurdish PKK forces from Baghouz area on the 20th of March 2019.
In addition to all that — after they survived from Baghouz and were on their way back after surviving ISIS — she and her son were bombed by mortar fire. Her son died, and she became disabled. PKK forces handed her over to the Yazidi House in Syria, where they took her to the hospital in Syria. After her treatment, they moved her to Khanasor compex in Sinjar district and brought her to her relatives.
Because of these tragic events she lived through, she could not remember some of what she had experienced — such as the period of her detention and the nationalities of the people she dealt with. She is currently in a wheelchair because of the mortar shelling she experienced, and she lives with her uncle in the Zakho district. Her financial condition is very difficult because she is disabled, a woman, and alone after losing her son and husband.
13 October 2019
M.D.K. born in Kocho village, and she lived happily with her three brothers after her older brother was martyred in the Iran-Iraq War. M.D.K. was able to take care of her older brothers and elderly parents, they lived on agriculture and livestock, and she was a very strong girl in managing and protecting her family.
On the 3rd of August 2014, ISIS forces attacked her village and seized the residents of her village for 13 days. Those 13 days was the time given them to declare their Islam and leave their faith. Villagers refused to change their faith. M.D.K. said: “When we knew that ISIS had given us the option to pay tribute rather than conversion to Islam, we felt peace, because our faith was no more in danger. But we did not know that it was a trick to kill the men and kidnap the women.”
She went on: “ISIS separated us from the men and took them to the outskirts of the village, including my father and one of my brothers. My other brothers were in Duhok, northern Iraq, during the ISIS attacks. ISIS gathered us in the Kocho school to give them the tribute, which were money, gold and jewelry, in exchange for allowing our escape to Mount Sinjar. But that was a brutal trick. They killed my father, my brothers Ayad and Farhad on the outskirts of the village, and buried them with more than 400 individual men in mass graves. They moved the women and children to Solagh Institute in eastern Sinjar. And they killed my mother, who was above 70 years old, with more than 85 other women at the Solagh Institute.”
M.D.K. said that she lived in the terrorist prisons of ISIS and was subjected to captivity, trade and rape by ISIS terrorists in various regions of Syria and Iraq. The ISIS members violated the sanctity of humanity by their brutal actions.
“On the first day of the attack, the majority of those who attacked our village were known from the neighboring Arab villages and had a relationship with our village. ISIS members participated in the sale and trade of Yazidi women and sold a large number of them to foreign fighters from various foreign countries.
The majority of ISIS leaders were Iraqis from the outskirts of Sinjar and Nineveh, and all the entire process of the attacks on Sinjar was planned according to their speeches. After that, the leaders changed and we became hostages to various other people, and we were subjected to the most heinous crimes of beating, rape, and trade.”
M.D.K. continued: “I was liberated in October of 2017, and now I live in the district of Zakho. I can’t visit my village a lot because dead bodies and mass graves are spread everywhere. I consider every house in my village a cemetery where I can’t pass, and I still suffer from a deteriorating psychological state.
That village was one of the most beautiful villages in the region, and the most lively, agricultural and commercial, and its residents were happy with their life. Now, they have nothing but ruin and destruction and the impact of 18 mass graves belonging to the youth of the village. And its girls are still in the slavery markets, and the fate of their children is unknown.
Our life is a tragedy, and our genocide in ongoing. Without the charitable organizations, the survivors would die of starvation and thirst — they would die after their liberation. The Yazidi community is the only society that showed the world its humanity and acceptance. And when we survived, they opened their hearts to us and participated with us in our sadness. And the Yazidi community considers that survivors of persecution have a special place within society and have a special sanctity.”