Women and girls from Iraq’s Yazidi minority have been raped, sold into sexual slavery and abused by the Islamic State (IS) group in a systematic ethnic cleansing drive, according to an Amnesty International report released Tuesday.
In a report titled, “Escape From Hell,” Amnesty International detailed the ordeals of 42 women and girls who managed to escape from their captors, who included fighters with the IS group (also known as ISIS or ISIL) as well as IS supporters such as local businessmen in northern Iraq.
Months after IS fighters swept through swathes of northern Iraq in a lightening summer offensive, details of the crimes against humanity being perpetrated in the areas they control are gradually emerging. But the full extent of the atrocities is still not known.
In August 2014, IS militants abducted “hundreds, possibly thousands, of Yazidi men, women and children,” from the Sinjar area in northwestern Iraq, according to the Amnesty report. “Hundreds of men were killed or forced to convert under the threat of the death,” the report notes.
For the women and children, a nightmare of almost unimaginable proportions had begun.
Separated from their families, sold into sexual enslavement, forced to convert, raped and sometimes tortured, the victims – including girls as young as 12 – have endured abuses that constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to Amnesty International.
The 42 women and girls interviewed by the London-based advocacy group managed to escape their captors and present just a fragmented account of the extensive human rights abuses suffered by the Yazidi community in recent months.
“Hundreds of Yazidi women and girls have had their lives shattered by the horrors of sexual violence and sexual slavery in IS captivity,” said Amnesty International’s Donatella Rovera in a statement released Tuesday. “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.”