Source: One Billion Rising
August 3rd marks the two-year anniversary of the brutal attack on the Yazidi people in Sinjar Province in the Northern region of Iraq in which ISIS forces stormed towns and villages in the historic homeland of the ethno-religious group, killing over 5,000 men and elders, enslaving over 7,000 women and children and displacing over 400,000 more, desecrating homes and holy sites. Thousands of internally displaced Yazidis surrounded by ISIS forces were trapped on Sinjar Mountain, dying of exposure and dehydration.
The displaced Yazidi community continues to face a humanitarian crisis; tens of thousands are homeless and unsupported and many, especially children, suffer from malnutrition and health issues. Since the beginning of this crisis, ISIS has sold thousands of Yazidi women into sexual slavery and committed crimes of rape and sexual violence against thousands of Yazidi women and children in captivity. The group abducted at least 5000 Yazidis during their assault on Sinjar, mostly women and children and has relocated abductees to different regions where they are offered for sale as sexual slaves. To date, dozens of women have been killed in captivity while many others have committed suicide. New York Times reporter Rukmina Calimachi has written extensively about the crisis, for instance breaking the story about Isis forcing birth control pills on their captive sexual slaves.
A UN report notes:
“ISIS has committed the crime of genocide as well as multiple crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Yazidis, thousands of whom are held captive in the Syrian Arab Republic where they are subjected to almost unimaginable horrors.ISIS has sought to destroy the Yazidis through killings; sexual slavery, enslavement, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment and forcible transfer. The public statements and conduct of ISIS and its fighters clearly demonstrate that ISIS intended to destroy the Yazidis of Sinjar, composing the majority of the world’s Yazidi population, in whole or in part.”
My wife, a specialist in psychological trauma and refugee crises, and other colleagues at the Victims of Violence Program in Cambridge MA, have been consuting and assisting in the development of the Psychosocial Treatment and Trauma Support Center in Kurdish-controlled Dohuk, northern Iraq, to address the abuse and sexual violence suffered by Yazidi women and girls in ISIS captivity by:
– ensuring urgent medical care and hospital treatment for the aftermath of sexual and physical violence endured;
– ensuring counseling and trauma support for every victim through the center directly or through referral to a specialist organization;
– facilitating pilgrimages for survivors to the holy temple of Lalish to meet with Yazidi religious leaders;
– providing education and training in marketable skills to help victims reclaim their lives and assist them in moving towards self-sufficiency and independence;
– partnering with other local and international organizations and surrounding communities to work to facilitate survivors’ reintegration into society.
The center is being developed under the aegis of YAZDA, a global Yazidi organization established after the genocide against them in northern Iraq. The mission of YAZDA is to support the surviving victims of genocide and to ensure the future safety of the Yazidi ethnoreligious minority group. Know more about their work and ways to help and show solidarity by visiting their website or making a donation.