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Freed Yazidis Recall to Asharq Al-Awsat Harrowing Memories of ISIS Captivity

Freed Yazidis Recall to Asharq Al-Awsat Harrowing Memories of ISIS Captivity

Tuesday, 3 November, 2020 - 07:15
Enas Rasho and Rafida Nayef Isa. (Yazidi House)

Security sources inside the al-Hol camp for the displaced in Syria’s al-Hasakeh recently announced that they have managed to free two Iraqi Yazidi girls who had been held captive by the ISI terrorist group.

Asharq Al-Awsat contacted Mahmoud Rasho, an official at the Yazidi House organization that had taken in Enas Rasho and Rafida Nayef Isa, who are waiting their return to their homes in Sinjar in Iraq.

They recalled to Asharq Al-Awsat their horrifying memories of their time held by the terrorist group.

Enas, 26, recounted how she was abducted from her town of Tal Qasba in Sinjar in 2014. The area had come under attack by ISIS, whose members were killing the men and kidnapping women and girls. People soon started fleeing towards the nearby Sinjar mountains.

“They pursued us to the mountain and abducted hundreds of men, women and girls,” remarked Enas, who said she recognized several of the captors as residents of a neighboring village.

“It was very painful to watch the women and girls being taken in as captives. Every gunman had taken a girl for himself. The situation was more difficult than facing death,” she said.

Enas was raped five times. She was moved around various Syrian cities and towns, whose names she barely recalls. She ultimately ended up in the al-Hol camp, arriving there from the town of Baghouz where ISIS made its last stand before the collapse of its so-called state in March 2019. Relief, however, did not come in al-Hol because Enas was held by a family that is affiliated to ISIS.

Rafida Nayef Isa, 22, hails from the town of Fathi in Sinjar. She gained her freedom after years of torture and displacement.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, she said that she hardly remembers the details of her ordeal because “my memory is full of harrowing images. I barely remember my age, village and family members.”

“I have experienced terrifying things,” she added.

Among the painful memories is how ISIS forced the kidnapped girls to donate blood to treat their wounded fighters.

Rafida remarked that she does not know how to go back to normal life where she can return to her family and shake off her trauma and shame. “I made it through hell and certain death. Now, however, I am living in anxiety and fear of what is to come. How will my family and neighbors treat me?”

The Yazidi House is an organization that operates in northeastern Syria and is dedicated to returning kidnapped Yazidis to their families. Mahmoud Rasho said 1,204 women and girls have been freed since ISIS was defeated in Syria and Iraq. The total climbs to 3,542 if men and children are added.

Some 6,500 people are estimated to have been kidnapped by ISIS in the summer of 2014, he revealed. The fate of 3,500 Yazidi girls remains unknown. They are likely being held by ISIS families or in regions where the terrorists still have control in Syria, such as the Idlib province.

“Unfortunately, no one knows anything about them and if they are even alive,” said Rasho.

Another freed girl, Khatoun, was held by an ISIS family in al-Hol for a year and a half. She is now safely being held by Yazidi House until she can return to her home.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, she recalled how ISIS fighters killed her parents and five siblings right before her eyes. “Many of our acquaintances and loves ones were beheaded,” she revealed. “Their remains were strewn across the streets in the name of religion – religion that has washed its hands clean of them.”

After being abducted in 2014, she, along with thousands of children and women were taken to Raqqa city where they were kept in a warehouse that became their prison.

“They separated the children from their mothers. Three gunmen showed up and raped me for hours. They then raped others,” she revealed. “My mother was beheaded. They cut off her head from the rest of her body.”

Many of the victims “lost their minds” after enduring such horrible crimes, said Khatoun. Others committed suicide or mutilated their own bodies so that they would not be “sold or bought.”

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