Thousands of women and girls, many of them as young as 12, belonging to Iraq’s Yazidi community were raped, tortured and beaten by militants of the Islamic State group who sold them to sexual slavery, according to a report released Tuesday by Amnesty International. And, as a result of the inhuman conditions of their captivity, many women of the persecuted minority community were driven to suicide, the international human rights group claimed in its report.
The report, compiled from interviews conducted with over 40 Yazidi women and girls who had managed to escape ISIS’ captivity, said that while up to 300 of those initially abducted by the militant group had escaped, the majority continue to be held at various locations across northern Iraq and Syria.
“The IS has not tried to hide or deny its crimes. On the contrary, more than any other group, it has gone to great efforts to publicize gruesome details of the atrocities perpetrated by its members against captured soldiers and civilians alike, giving them ample resonance through videos and statements widely distributed on social media, often in multiple languages,” Amnesty said, in the report.
The Yazidis, belonging to an ancient religion that predates Islam and Christianity, have suffered intense persecution at the hands of ISIS, which has accused the former of being “devil worshippers.” Since August, it is believed that hundreds of Yazidis have been killed and tens of thousands have been displaced after being forced to flee their homes in the Sinjar mountains in Iraq’s north.
Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser, said, in a statement, that many of the girls held by ISIS as sexual slaves and subjected to daily violence had been driven to suicide. A former captive interviewed by Amnesty recounted an incident where a 19-year-old woman named Jilan killed herself to “escape the horrors of captivity and sexual violence.”
“She cut her wrists and hanged herself. She was very beautiful. I think she knew that she was going to be taken away by a man and that is why she killed herself,” the woman, identified in the report as Luna, told Amnesty.
Amnesty also said that the women and girls who had managed to escape ISIS captivity were not receiving the help and care they urgently needed.
“Survivors of sexual violence should be proactively sought out and provided with adequate and timely medical care and support services,” Amnesty said, in the report. “The KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) and the UN agencies and humanitarian organizations that are providing or putting in place such services should ensure that they are physically, geographically and financially accessible.”