With the recent battlefield success of the Kurdish forces against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, some of the people held captive by this Jihadist army are now being released. This includes dozens, if not hundreds, of women who were pressed into a brutal kind of sexual slavery.
This week I visited an encampment north of Mosul, Iraq, where a cleric introduced me to Najat Owdi Rashul, an Iraqi Yazidi woman whose family was released last week after six months of Islamic State detention. She described the conditions for her fellow Yazidi women who were held in a make-shift prison at a banquet hall in Mosul.
Of all the horrors of daily life in the custody of the jihadists, Najat recalled, the worst came in the early evenings. That’s when a commander would call out the names of a few captive women and girls, saying the list was approved by special order of the governor of Mosul, or the caliph himself.
“They would scream when their name was called,” she said. “Sometimes they would begin to pull their hair out and beat their face” to make themselves appear uglier. She said they knew they would be taken away, and would never be seen again.
At no point in our talk did Najat mention the word “rape.” This is not unusual. Pakhshan Zangana, the secretary general of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s council on women’s affairs, told me that when these women return to their communities, most refuse to talk about their experiences.
There are a few exceptions, and from their stories emerges a picture of life in sexual slavery. Kurdish television has run interviews with some women and girls who have described their treatment. One recent feature was about a young married Yazidi couple who, despite societal stigma in a culture that prizes honor, decided to stay together after the wife was abducted and raped repeatedly.
Read the rest of Eli Lake’s article in the Bloomberg View here.