Friday Focus: 5 years on, Yezidi women enslaved and raped by ISIS face an unbearable dilemma
Five years ago, in August 2014, ISIS fighters launched a genocidal attack on the Yezidi religious minority in Sinjar, northern Iraq.
Women and girls were raped, enslaved and forced to endure unspeakable atrocities. They saw their husbands and sons tortured and killed. Survivors fled to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, setting up makeshift homes in displaced persons camps. Half a decade later, the majority are still there.
The Independent recently spoke to our team and partners in Iraq to uncover the devastating legacy of the Sinjar massacre and the unbearable realities Yezidi women are now living through.
Yesim Arikut-Treece is a psychologist who provides counselling to Yezidi women at the Women’s Centre at Khanke Camp, operated by our partner the Free Yezidi Foundation.
She told The Independent how women who had children as the product of rape are now faced with the dilemma of abandoning their babies in order to be allowed back into the community, or keeping the babies but remaining ostracised.
“It is a very complicated problem… both the mothers and the children are suffering a lot. I have heard from Yezidi women who were captured who left their children behind, that there were women who stayed because they were unable to leave their children. Women who return to the Yezidi community with babies are stuck in safe houses or the child is put in an orphanage.”
It's a stark reminder that, while our news cycle has moved on to other crises, and ISIS no longer poses such an immediate threat, for Yezidi women the events of 2014 are still extremely raw. They are still trapped in dire conditions, forced to relive their ordeals every day.
We are committed to supporting Yezidi women for the long term, helping them to overcome trauma and rebuild their lives.