ISIS has singled out the Yazidi minority, notably its women and children, for particularly brutal treatment. In August 2014, ISIS fighters abducted hundreds, possibly thousands, of Yezidi men, women and children who were fleeing the IS takeover from the Sinjar region, in the north-west of the country. Hundreds of the men were killed and others were forced to convert to Islam under threat of death. Younger women and girls, some as young as 12, were separated from their parents and older relatives and sold, given as gifts or forced to marry ISIS fighters and supporters.
Zinab and her children were kidnapped by ISIS from her village. She was taken to Syria and sold four times, subjected to sexual violence and forced religious conversion. Zinab used a smuggling network to escape Syria after 20 months.
I lived in Sinjar region, in the village of Hardan, with my husband’s parents, his three brothers and their wives (one brother was single) and our children. My husband and I ran a small shop selling ceramics and plastic items. We never went to school and could not read or write, but our two older children went to school and my daughter was the best in her classroom.
The day Daesh came to the village, they came to the square and told us: ‘Don´t try to escape, the situation is safe, so stay. We don´t want civilians, we just want military persons.’ But some people didn´t believe them and were preparing to escape. I was one of them. We approached the Daesh check-point but couldn´t get through, though some people did. We went to an Arab village near us because we knew one family there. They said they would help us. They took the women and children upstairs to the second floor and told the men (with my husband) to stay on the ground floor. But they brought Daesh with them. They took our IDs, phones and everything we had. They took men and women and children to the cars and they said they were going to take us somewhere out of Hardan. Then they took the women and children to Tal Afar school.
We stayed in Tal Afar for 10 days. Sometimes Daesh came and took the beautiful girls with them. They took a lot of them. There might have been around 500 women and children there. The rice they gave us was full of glass pieces. I couldn’t sleep because I was so afraid that somebody would take my children. Sometimes Daesh men came and looked around for children. It was also extremely dirty.
Then they took us to Badush prison, which is between Tal Afar and Mosul. They put us on big buses and took only younger females. We stayed in that jail for 15 days. Then we went back to Tal Afar and they took us to another school. They brought back some [Yazidi] men and they asked them to identify their families. My husband wasn’t among them. I have never seen my husband since then. They told us that because our husbands weren’t there, they would sell us to Kurdish Peshmerga.
Only younger women who could get married went. I only had three of my children with me. My daughter was near my mother-in-law. I told them that I want to take my daughter, too, but they said no. I don’t know what happened to her, if she is still with my mother-in-law. She was nine years old then. Then they took us to Syria with each bus full with almost 30 women.
We arrived to a farm close to Raqqa. They came and took our names and our children’s names. We stayed 15 days on the farm. After that a car came with 10 Daesh men. Each man took one woman and her children.
For more than a year I pretended to be crazy and mute. I acted. My daughter helped me to take a shower, change my clothes, to eat… I was sold four times. Two of these men raped me.
After the fourth time I was sold, they took me to another house where a Daesh widow lived. Her husband had died in the fighting. There was a lot of Yazidis and one man, he was Sorani Kurd, he used to come and teach them Quran.
After some time they changed my ID, and my sons’ and we became Muslims. But not my daughter. They didn’t change her religion. They taught me how to be a good Muslim. Because I pretended to be mute and I couldn’t read, they used to put a recorded version of the Quran to my ears to listen to it. They used to take boys out to the mosque for Quranic lessons.
On the first floor there were Daesh, we lived on the second floor and the third floor was empty. I asked my daughter to take me up to the third floor because I didn’t want to live. I prayed to God, but I didn’t want to leave without my daughter. I wanted to jump from the roof with her. So I tried to push my daughter down, but in the end I wasn’t able to do it. I was scared. It was in the evening, sunset, Tuesday.
Later they took us to the place where widows, divorced women and women without husbands lived. That same Daesh widow lived there and she became my friend and helped me. On the opposite side of the street I saw a Yazidi woman who I knew. This woman was in touch with her son through the telephone. So I gave my daughter the names of some relatives and sent her to the Yazidi woman. Her son found my uncle in Iraq and they prepared my escape from Syria. It took some time to prepare and on the way we stayed in safe houses. We used the network of smugglers. The Yazidi woman and her five children escaped during the same time, too. When they crossed border in Sinjar, family came for them. We were in Syria for 20 months.
Narrative courtesy of The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund
Original source can be found here