Over 300 Yezidi captives freed in Fallujah after ISIS withdrawal

Yezidi families arriving in Newroz Camp in northeastern Syria after fleeing ISIS attacks in Shingal area in northern Iraq, summer 2014. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

DUHOK – Subsequent to the withdrawal of the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS) from major parts of Fallujah city, Iraqi forces announced the release of hundreds of Yezidi Kurds who had been taken by ISIS as hostages two years ago.

Activists confirmed the release of 354 Yezidi girls from ISIS detention in Fallujah. 

“The freed girls had been taken as sex slaves by ISIS jihadis,” Yezidi rights activist Kelesh Shingali told ARA News. “They are now under the protection of the government forces and they’ll soon be transferred to the Kurdistan Region.” 

“The release of those girls was a great accomplishment, especially after they suffered brutal practices and sexual abuse by ISIS barbarians,” he said.

“The entire Yezidi community is happy for the freedom of those girls, and we are looking forward to the release of the rest of Yezidi women held by ISIS,” Shingali told ARA News.

In August 2014, ISIS radicals took over the Yezidi region of Shingle (Sinjar) in northern Iraq, causing a mass displacement of nearly 400,000 people to Duhok and Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. Tens of thousands of Yezidis remained trapped in Mount Sinjar, suffering mass killings, kidnappings and rape cases, according to local and military sources. Also, more than 3000 Yezidi girls have been taken by the radical group as sex slaves. 

On November 13, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraqi Kurdistan, backed by an air cover from the US-led coalition forces, announced the liberation of the entire Yezidi district of Shingal in the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh after fierce battles with ISIS extremists. The Kurdish forces have recently discovered more than five mass graves in the Yezidi region, where hundreds of Yezidi civilians have been summarily executed and buried by ISIS jihadis. Yet, thousands of Yezidi women remain in ISIS captivity after being sold as sex slaves across the group’s territory in Iraq and Syria.

Human Rights Watch called on ISIS to urgently release Yezidi women and girls abducted since 2014. “The longer they are held by ISIS, the more horrific life becomes for Yezidi women, bought and sold, brutally raped, their children torn from them,” said Skye Wheeler, women’s rights emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. 

“Many of the abuses, including torture, sexual slavery, and arbitrary detention, would be war crimes if committed in the context of the armed conflict, or crimes against humanity if they were part of ISIS policy during a systematic or widespread attack on the civilian population,” the HRW said. “The abuses against Yezidi women and girls documented by Human Rights Watch, including the practice of abducting women and girls and forcibly converting them to Islam and/or forcibly marrying them to ISIS members, may be part of a genocide against Yezidis.” 

Reporting by: Ali Issa

Source: ARA News

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