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Amnesty: Yazidi Children Freed from ISIS Haunted by Health Crisis

Amnesty: Yazidi Children Freed from ISIS Haunted by Health Crisis

Thursday, 30 July, 2020 - 05:45
Yazidi children survivors are greeted by residents of Sinuni following their release from ISIS militants in Syria, in Sinuni, Iraq March 1, 2019. REUTERS/Fahed Khodor

Nearly 2,000 Yazidi children freed from the grips of ISIS in recent years are still trapped by psychological and physical trauma, Amnesty International warned on Thursday.

In a new report based on dozens of interviews in northern Iraq, the rights group found that 1,992 children who faced torture, forced conscription, rape and other abuses at the hands of ISIS were not getting the care they need.

"While the nightmare of their past has receded, hardships remain for these children," said Matt Wells, deputy director of Amnesty's crisis response team.

ISIS swept through the region of the Yazidis in northwest Iraq in 2014. The extremists slaughtered thousands of men, abducted women and girls and forced boys to fight on their behalf.

To this day, child survivors suffer "debilitating long-term injuries," as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, mood wings, aggression and flashbacks.

Yazidi children interviewed by AFP last year in a displacement camp in the northwest district of Duhok played aggressively, wore all black and spoke Arabic to each other, even months after they were freed from ISIS.

One of them, a ten-year-old girl, had threatened to commit suicide multiple times, her mother told AFP.

Sahir, a 15-year-old former ISIS child soldier, told Amnesty that he knew he needed mental support to cope with his trauma but felt he had nowhere to turn.

"What I was looking for is just someone to care about me, some support, to tell me, 'I am here for you'," he said.

"This is what I have been looking for, and I have never found it."

Amnesty said access to education could help ease children back into society, but tens of thousands of Yazidis still live in displacement camps where schooling is irregular.

Many have also gone into debt from paying thousands of US dollars to smugglers to free Yazidi relatives who were held by ISIS.

Yazidi mothers forcibly wed to ISIS militants are struggling to heal their own psychological scars, while dealing with the stigma of having children born to extremist fathers.

"I want to tell (our community) and everyone in the world, please accept us, and accept our children... I didn't want to have a baby from these people. I was forced to have a son," said 22-year-old Janan.

Many Yazidi women who were rescued from ISIS' last bastion in Syria over the last two years were forced to leave their ISIS-born children behind when they returned to their families in neighboring Iraq.

"We have all thought about killing ourselves, or tried to do it," said Hanan, a 24-year-old Yazidi whose daughter was taken from her.

Mothers must be reunited with their children and no further separation should take place, Amnesty said.

"These women were enslaved, tortured and subjected to sexual violence. They should not suffer any further punishment," said Wells.

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