Yezidi Kurds in diaspora show support to their peers abducted by ISIS in northern Iraq. File photo
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ERBIL – The extremist armed group of Islamic State (ISIS) should urgently release Yezidi women and girls abducted since 2014, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday. According to statistics, at least 1,800 Yezidi women and girls are still in ISIS-hands.
“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.
According to officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria continue to hold about 1,800 abducted Yezidi women and girls.
The United Nations has cited allegations, based on Yezidi officials’ estimates, that as many as 3,500 people remained in ISIS captivity as of October 2015.
“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 UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in March 2015 that ISIS may have committed genocide against the Yezidis in August 2014.
“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,” HRW said.
“Women also reported ISIS members taking their children from them, physically abusing their children, and forcing them to pray or take Islamic names.”
“ISIS attacks on women and girls, especially Yezidis, have created a new and terrifying crisis for women and girls in the region,” Wheeler said. “One way Iraq’s government can help these women is to change its laws and policies to better protect all women who have been subjected to rape.”
In August 2014, ISIS extremists had taken control of the Yezidi Shingal district in northern Iraq, causing a mass displacement of nearly 400,000 people. Tens of thousands of Yezidi Kurds remained trapped in Mount Sinjar, suffering mass killings, kidnappings and rape at the hands of ISIS militants. Also, more than 3000 Yezidi girls have been taken by the radical group as sex slaves.
The Kurdish Peshmerga troops regained control of the Yezidi Shingal region in November of 2015, after fierce battles against ISIS. 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.