A 14 year old Yazidi girl has given a firsthand account of escaping from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) imprisonment after the terror group captured her in Northern Iraq. Her retelling the experience sheds light on the reality many of the young women captured by the terrorist organization face.
The names in her account have been changed by the Washington Post to protect her identity but the rest of her story is unchanged.
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As the sun rose over my dusty village on August 3, relatives called with terrifying news: Jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) were coming for us. I’d expected just another day full of household tasks in Tel Uzer, a quiet spot on the western Nineveh plains of Iraq, where I lived with my family. Instead, we scrambled out of town on foot, taking only our clothes and some valuables.
After an hour of walking north, we stopped to drink from a well in the heart of the desert. Our plan was to take refuge on Mount Sinjar, along with thousands of other Yazidis like us who were fleeing there, because we had heard a lot of stories about Islamic State brutality and what they had done to non-Muslims. They’d been converting religious minorities or simply killing them. But suddenly several vehicles draw up and we found ourselves surrounded by militants wearing Islamic State uniforms.
Several people screamed in horror; we were scared for our lives. I’ve never felt so helpless in my 14 years. They had blocked our path to safety, and there was nothing we could do.
The militants divided us by gender and age: One for young and capable men, another for girls and young women, and a third for older men and women. The jihadists stole cash and jewelry from this last group, and left them alone at the oasis. Then they placed the girls and women in trucks. As they drove us away, we heard gunshots. Later we learned that they were killing the young men, including my 19-year old brother, who had married just six months ago.
After ISIL terrorists attempted, and failed, to force the Yazidis to convert to their extremist brand of Islam, the 14-year-old was given as a sex slave to an Iraqi man living in Fallujah.
He tried to rape me several times, but I did not allow him to touch me in any sexual way. Instead, he cursed me and beat me every day, punching and kicking me. He fed me only one meal per day. Shayma and I began to discuss killing ourselves.
Nearly a week of captivity at the hands of the terrorist group left her with little hope but did not extinguish her courage. Six days after arriving at her captor's house, she found an opportunity to escape.
On our sixth day in Fallujah, Abu Ahmed and the aide left for business in Mosul. Abu Hussein, Shayma’s captor, stayed behind. Around sunset the next evening, he went to the mosque for prayers, leaving us alone in the house.
Using our cell phones, we had contacted Mahmoud, a Sunni friend of Shayma’s cousin, who lived in Fallujah, for help. It was too dangerous for him to rescue us from the house, so Shayma and I used kitchen knives and meat cleavers to break the locks of two doors to get out. Wearing traditional long black abayas that we found in the house, we walked for 15 minutes through town, which was quiet for evening prayers. Then Mahmoud came and picked us up on the street and took us to his home.
She was then reunited with her surviving family members.
After so much fear for so many days, hugging my dad again was the best moment of my life. He said he had cried for me every day since I disappeared. That evening, we went to Khanke, where my mother was staying with her relatives. We hugged and kept crying until then I fainted. My month-long ordeal was over, and I felt reborn.
After the terrifying experience, she said she no longer feels at home in her own country.
This country is no place for me anymore. I want to go to a place where I might be able to start over, if that is even possible.