The extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has carried out systematic rape and other sexual violence against Yezidi women and girls in northern Iraq, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported today.
HRW conducted research in the town of Dohuk in January and February 2015, including interviewing 20 women and girls who escaped from ISIS, and reviewing ISIS statements about the subject.
The humanitarian organization has documented a system of organized rape and sexual assault, sexual slavery, and forced marriage by ISIS forces.
Such acts are war crimes and may be crimes against humanity, observes HRW. Many of the women and girls remain missing, but the survivors now in Iraqi Kurdistan need psychosocial support and other assistance, according to HRW.
“ISIS forces have committed organized rape, sexual assault, and other horrific crimes against Yezidi women and girls,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Those fortunate enough to have escaped need to be treated for the unimaginable trauma they endured.”
HRW reports that ISIS forces took several thousand Yezidi civilians into custody in northern Iraq’s Nineveh province in August 2014, according to Kurdistan officials and community leaders.
Witnesses said that fighters systematically separated young women and adolescent girls from their families and other captives and moved them from one location to another inside Iraq and Syria.
The 11 women and 9 girls Human Rights Watch interviewed had escaped between September 2014 and January 2015. Half, including two 12-year-old girls, said they had been raped – some multiple times and by several ISIS fighters.
Nearly all of them said they had been forced into marriage; sold, in some cases a number of times; or given as “gifts.” The women and girls also witnessed other captives being abused, according to HRW.
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