Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviewed 20 Yazidi women and girls at a refugee camp in Dohuk, a governorate in Iraqi Kurdistan. These women described the horrific treatment they endured from the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). Rashida, 31, told the group about a lottery ISIS set up for the fighters to receive a woman.
“Later that day they [ISIS fighters] made a lottery of our names and started to choose women by drawing out the names,” she explained, adding:
The man who selected me, Abu Ghufran, forced me to bathe but while I was in the bathroom I tried to kill myself. I had found some poison in the house, and took it with me to the bathroom. I knew it was toxic because of its smell. I distributed it to the rest of the girls and we each mixed some with water in the bathroom and drank it. None of us died but we all got sick. Some collapsed.
She managed to speak to her brother in private on a fighter’s phone. He promised he would help her, but told her if he failed she “should commit suicide because it would be better than the alternative.” Another girl, Leila, told HRW two girls attempted suicide with broken glass and she tried “when her Libyan captors forced her to take a bath, which she knew was typically a prelude to rape.” When the men realized she was trying to die, they viciously beat her to a pulp. Then they raped her friend in front of her.
Jalila, only 12 years old, recognized the men who captured her family. These men handed the family to ISIS, “who separated Jalila, her sister, sister-in-law, and infant nephew.” Militants eventually brought Jalila to another house, separating her from her sister.
“The men would come and select us,” she said. “When they came, they would tell us to stand up and then examine our bodies. They would tell us to show our hair and sometimes they beat the girls if they refused. They wore dishdashas [ankle length garments], and had long beards and hair.”
A man chose her as his sex slave.
“I told him not to touch me and begged him to let me go,” she continued. “I told him to take me to my mother. I was a young girl, and I asked him, ‘What do you want from me?’ He spent three days having sex with me.”
Dilara, 20, witnessed similar behavior by the ISIS terrorists.
“From 9:30 in the morning, men would come to buy girls to rape them,” Dilara described. Continuing, she said:
I saw in front of my eyes ISIS soldiers pulling hair, beating girls, and slamming the heads of anyone who resisted. They were like animals. … Once they took the girls out, they would rape them and bring them back to exchange for new girls. The girls’ ages ranged from 8 to 30 years. … Only 20 girls remained in the end.
HRW recommended these women receive psychological treatment and support since all of them “showed signs of trauma.” Jalila told the group she wants to receive medical help and to leave Iraq. Narin, 26, also wants psychological treatment.
“No one has offered me one-on-one counselling of any kind,” she said. “I’d be interested in receiving professional counselling to help me process my experiences if it was available.” Detailing her trauma, she stated, “I have trouble sleeping at night, and only sleep a few hours at a time. When I sleep, I often see my parents and siblings in front of my eyes, especially the image of my brothers being forced to kneel on the road, and my mother’s face.”