In August 2014, the Islamic State militants (IS) terrorised a predominately Ezidi town of Shingal. Thousands of women, most of them young, and girls were kidnapped. They were forced into sex slavery, they were treated like cattle, if not worse. Some of the girls kidnapped were as young as twelve years old, given as gifts to notorious fighters.
Nearly 300 of those kidnapped managed to escape. They were the brave, honourable and courageous women who were able to speak against the barbaric practices of IS militants. They made headlines, sensationalist titles of heart wrenching stories covered international media outlets. Their stories were used to highlight the extremism, and horrific practices of IS militants, but more importantly, they became a voice for the countless women who are still held captive.
These women are the epitome of courage, they are the holders of honour in our communities. They are our pride because they are strong and defiant against a monstrous group, but they also need our help to overcome the ordeal they were forced to endure. Amnesty international recently published a report, highlighting the ordeal of these women.
Arwa is 15-years-old. She should be thinking about which College she should consider, or which subjects to pursue in her academic field, but instead she was abducted with hundreds of her community members in a village south of Mount Shingal.
Arwa was raped. She was told if she tried to kill herself, her relatives would be killed. The account of events, which she has bravely revealed taints the history of the entire region. The reality is, these stories should be welcomed, not pitied. We should comfort young girls, and the women that were forcefully taken by IS because they need our comfort, not pity.
Supporting victims of IS
The Kurdistan Regional Government should act responsibly towards victims of IS militants by setting up trauma centres for them. For those victims who are unable or unwilling to rejoin their families, or return to their communities, they should be offered accommodation. There should be a step-by-step guideline on how women can re-engage with their communities who were held captive by IS for months, weeks or even days.
Some of the young girls and women will find it difficult to re-engage with society, continue their academic studies and be an active participant in their communities. They should be offered alternative ways of education, which will secure their future financial independence in the future.
Compensation for Ezidi community
The Ezidi community has faced emotional and mental torture. Those who managed to escape capture from IS militants have wounds that will take generations to heal. They need closure, support and their lives that were blown to pieces sewed back together.
The transition towards regaining some normality should be made easier through a credible compensation system that is inclusive of those who suffered losses. The massacre of Ezidis did not just happen to them, but it happened to all of us. We witnessed minority groups of our region molested, abused, raped, tortured, humiliated at the hands of a notorious group. Consequently, we are responsible for ensuring some of the burdens they’re faced with such as accommodation, financial security and so on are lifted.