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Yazidi Women Who Escape IS Slavery 'Need Protection'

Around 5,000 Yazidi women and girls have been kidnapped by IS militants, who sell them as sex slaves.
Around 5,000 Yazidi women and girls have been kidnapped by IS militants, who sell them as sex slaves.

Khalida Khalid, a Yazidi adviser to the speaker of parliament in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, has said that Yazidi women who escape enslavement by the Islamic State (IS) militant group need protection when they return home to northern Iraq.

Tens of thousands of Yazidis, an ethnic Kurdish religious community, have been displaced, killed, or abducted by IS gunmen. Around 5,000 Yazidi women and girls have been kidnapped by IS militants, who sell them as sex slaves. It is not known exactly how many of these women and girls have managed to escape, with estimates ranging from as few as 50 to 300.

Khalid told U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) on December 11 that there had been instances of pregnancy among the escapees but the Yazidis had not wanted to talk about the issue outside the community.

According to Khalid, who says there are concerns that the escaped women could face discrimination or violence from their families, the Kurdish parliament is discussing laws that would protect them, including legal abortions for victims of rape by IS gunmen.

A Yazidi tribal leader told NPR that while Yazidi women raped by IS militants would be accepted in the community, the tribe would not accept pregnancy.

In a report in October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) noted the testimony of several Yazidi girls and women who said they had been systematically separated from their families, held captive, and then bought and sold by IS militants who subjected them to sexual attacks.

HRW quoted Yazidi activists as saying that there was stigma surrounding rape in the Yazidi community and that "even acknowledging capture by Islamic State can put women and girls in danger."

Iraq's only ethnic Yazidi lawmaker told RFE/RL on December 9 that the United States should work to help release the 5,000 Yazidi girls and women who remain enslaved by IS gunmen. Vian Dakhil said that she had been in touch with several of the women captives, who complained of daily torture and rape.

Vian Dakhil (file photo)
Vian Dakhil (file photo)

Dakhil said that the United States should help free these women either "militarily" or via other means. The lawmaker, who was in Washington to testify at a Senate subcommittee hearing on the IS group, also said that the United States should arm the Yazidis against IS.

The calls to protect Yazidi girls and women who escape IS slavery, and for the United States to help free remaining captives, come after the IS group released a disturbing set of guidelines for its militants who "own" Yazidi slaves.

The guidelines, extracts of which were tweeted on December 3 by a pro-IS Twitter account belonging to a user calling himself Umar Khatab, were translated and posted on the Middle East Media Research Institute website.

The guidelines, published by the IS group's Research and Fatwa department, are titled "Questions And Answers On Taking Captives And Slaves."

The guidelines permit the rape of female slaves, including young girls, by IS militants, and give details for when such acts can take place.

The guidelines also say that IS militants can buy, sell, or give female captives as gifts, "for they are merely property." A slave can be bought by two or more militants, and it is permitted for militants to beat a female slave for disciplinary purposes but not for torture.

Other questions answered in the guidelines include whether all "unbelieving" (i.e. non-Muslim) women can be taken captive; whether a female slave is allowed to meet a foreign man if she is not wearing a hijab (a veil that covers the head and chest); and whether militants can buy two sisters as slaves.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world.


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