Torture, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, suffered by women and girls from Iraq’s Yezidi minority who were abducted by the armed group the Islamic State (IS), highlights the savagery of IS rule, said human rights organization Amnesty International in a new report Tuesday.
Escape from hell – Torture, sexual slavery in Islamic State captivity in Iraq report provides an insight into the horrifying abuse suffered by hundreds and possibly thousands of Yezidi women and girls who have been forcibly married, “sold” or given as “gifts” to IS fighters or their supporters. Often, captives were forced to convert to Islam, reveals Amnesty.
“Hundreds of Yezidi women and girls have had their lives shattered by the horrors of sexual violence and sexual slavery in IS captivity,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response advisor, who spoke to more than 40 former captives in northern Iraq.
“Many of those held as sexual slaves are children – girls aged 14, 15 or even younger. IS fighters are using rape as a weapon in attacks amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
The women and girls are among thousands of Yezidis from the Sinjar region in north-west Iraq who have been targeted since August in a wave of ethnic cleansing by IS fighters bent on wiping out ethnic and religious minorities in the area.
According to Amnesty, the trauma of survivors of sexual violence is further exacerbated by the stigma surrounding rape. Survivors feel that their “honour”, and that of their families, has been tarnished and fear that their standing in society will be diminished as a result.
Many survivors of sexual violence are still not receiving the full help and support they desperately need, says Amnesty.
“The Kurdistan Regional Government, UN and other humanitarian organizations who are providing medical and other support services to survivors of sexual violence must step up their efforts. They must ensure they are swiftly and proactively reaching out to all those who may need them, and that women and girls are made aware of the support available to them,” said Donatella Rovera.
Amnesty suggests that such services should include sexual and reproductive health services as well as counselling and trauma support.
Photo courtesy: Amnesty