Published on 5 Feb 2015

'We were asking them to kill us' – torment goes on for Yazidi women enslaved by IS

 

Sometimes one comes across a situation which redefines the notion of what it is to be human in a truly terrible way.

So it is with the conduct of so-called Islamic State (IS) in its would-be jihadist utopia known as the “caliphate”.

I have just emerged, blinking into the light, from editing a film about the rape and abuse of Yazidi women slaves, filmed by my colleague Mehran Bozorgnia.

So shocking is it that whenever I try to talk about it at any length, my eyes well up with tears. Others watching it have reported the same.

Last year some 300, 000 Yazidis fled the lightning advance of IS fighters across Iraq. Some of them sought refuge on Sinjar mountain, where last August we filmed Iraqi helicopters trying to rescue as many as they could. Yazidis crushed one another in a desperate stampede to escape.

Untold numbers died on that mountain in unbearable heat. Western policymakers, reluctant to be sucked back in to Iraq, sent air drops of food and water but judged an international humanitarian airlift unnecessary.

But the inhabitants of the village of Kucho failed to get away in time. The film we have made documents what happened to the women who were trapped behind the IS front line that August.

An excellent Amnesty International report, published in December, reckons that some 300 of those abducted by IS, mostly women and children, have managed to escape, but that “possibly thousands” are still in captivity.

A group of women refugees has shown remarkable bravery in talking on camera to Channel 4 News about their ordeal. Some of them have been made pregnant by the IS fighters who bought them at auction and carted them off to the IS de facto capital of Raqqa in Syria, where they were frequently traded as sex slaves between the men.

Some women are known to have committed suicide in captivity.  One woman, 19-year-old Hakimeh Jelo, told us that being forced to convert to Islam shamed and outraged her more than being sold.

“We were asking them to kill us,” she says. “We were pulling their guns towards our heads, but they refused.”

Jalileh Amo, who is 30, told us that women would have their arms broken or skulls cracked if they refused to comply. When the women got better, they would be sold and abused again. Girls as young as eight or nin were sold.  Brief “marriage” services entitled  IS fighters to take the women alongside their existing wives.

 

To quote one IS document on Yazidis: “One should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffar (infidels) and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Sharia”.

There’s also an IS “office of religious edicts” which claims: “If she is a virgin, he can have intercourse with her immediately after taking possession of her… it is permissible to buy, sell or give as a gift female captives and slaves, for they are merely property, which can be disposed of…

“It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse; however, if she is not fit for intercourse, then it is enough to enjoy her without intercourse”.

The brutality and misogyny these women and girls have endured is beyond words. Psychological counselling is virtually non-existent.

And a Yazidi religious leader makes clear in the film that, although the women will be welcomed back into society, their as yet unborn babies will not.

Many of the women have scores of relatives missing and presumed dead. Hundreds of their menfolk from Kucho village were lined up and shot. Survivors, who hid under piles of bodies, have lived to tell the story.

The women escaped thanks to the kindness of individuals, including Muslim women in the households where they were kept. They waited for their IS male captors to leave for the front line and reached out to a Yazidi rescue network via the internet or through sending texts on  mobile phones.

There is no going back to Kucho. It is surrounded by Arab villages, which stand accused by refugees of colluding in kidnap and murder. The women we have spoken to want to go to Europe or America.

And with the fate of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, so may go Iraq itself: a nation torn apart by sectarian hatred,  unless the atrocities now perpetrated by Islamic State can bring the country to its senses.

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11 reader comments

  1. Hugo Charlton says:

    This is an important story and it is remarkably brave of these survivors to be prepared to talk about their experience. Apart from the obvious conclusion that we must increase our efforts to contain and suppress ISIL, including supporting the Kurds in their fight against Dae’sh, we must also support the survivors and assist in their recuperation and reintroduction into their communities. It is to be hoped that as a result of this story the fight to free those still enslaved will now be pursued with increased vigour.

  2. Peter Smith says:

    Commendable reporting as ever from Chan 4 News but I have to take issue with Jackie Long’ s interview with the young lady activist representing the
    Yazidi people, Nareen Shammo. After listing the atrocities that her people were being subjected to Ms Long stated, ‘but this will come as no surprise to you…..?’. Miss Shammo, clearly wrong footed, stumbled around an impassioned statement on behalf of her poor innocent persecuted people.
    Why didn’t Ms Long phrase her question in such a way as to allow someone obviously struggling, not only emotionally but also with the English language.
    Please Channel 4 News do not lose sight of the fact that, although we tend to take for granted that English is to some extent universal, beleaguered people thousands of miles away on time delayed satellite link deserve both time and consideration in order to articulate their plight.

  3. Jennifer Feij says:

    This is so bad that I can’t think of anything else, except that we should all spread the word as fast as possible – make an impact on international public opinion. We should save all those that are living a brutal nightmare……even little girls……..!!!!

    The world should act together to eradicate these primitive monsters

  4. M. Dodd says:

    Last night’s Channel 4 Documentary was heartbreaking. Those brave women have spoken out to help others from suffering such brutality, I hope this programme will encourage countries to free those enslaved by IS.

  5. anon says:

    Thank you to Channel 4 News as always for bringing this obscenity of evil to the attention of the World. There are not words to describe such evil, satanic, vile, vile stuff. At the same time the Defence Committee need to take positive action now this side of the weekend, to follow up what is clear to them and many others with action to demand we intervene properly to stop this and stop this cynical pretence of taking action while not doing so. This action has to be regardless of Party lines which are irrelevant, it is far too serious for that, it has been for some time.

    Given that IS could be destroyed in 24 hours, and all this stopped, and the Yazedi women rescued from their torment there is one question that demands to be answered and politicians on all sides must do this,

    It is clear to me that no real action is intended or has been intended to stop this, just enough to keep the matter on the boil, while such satanic evil takes place, but one asks why? for what purpose? It suggests to me a black operation of the most despicable and cynical kind. beyond comprehension.

    The Yazedi women are suffering terribly as you report, the Christian Church is being destroyed, deep hate is being formented against the ‘nasty’ Muslims -who have nothing to do with this. The right wingers across the World, including those in the Church sadly point their finger at the Muslims, taking their justification from the old testament while ignoring Gospel teaching,

    the pot is stirred, meanwhile Iran is identified as the ‘real’ enemy, and perhaps the thinking is that the reaction eventually from an enraged world would be a massive overreaction later down the line re a sort of Iraq war 2, pushed by a new right wing President, the militarists and the arms industry,

    the way to stop this evil now is for the Muslim world to see what is really going on and to go in a stop IS immediately using all means at their disposal, because not only because they are as appalled and outraged by what is happening as any of us, if not more so because their religion is being constantly used or misused as their justification for such evil, which is a complete lie, but also because also they collectively may also be the ultimate target. maybe next to go would be Iran. Who next; Saudi Arabia?

    this might explain why I believe IS is being deliberately allowed to continue this evil as a matter of policy of the darkest kind, rather than being destroyed by the coalition which could be -very quickly- done

    I would also appeal to right thinking Leaders in countries like the US to demand, insist upon action NOW to destroy IS, not later.

  6. anon says:

    Thank you to Channel 4 News as always for bringing this obscenity of evil to the attention of the World. There are not words to describe such evil, satanic, vile, vile stuff. At the same time the Defence Committee need to take positive action now this side of the weekend, to follow up what is clear to them and many others with action to demand we intervene properly to stop this and stop this cynical pretence of taking action while not doing so. This action has to be regardless of Party lines which are irrelevant, it is far too serious for that, it has been for some time.

    Given that IS could be destroyed in 24 hours, and all this stopped, and the Yazedi women rescued from their torment there is one question that demands to be answered and politicians on all sides must do this,

    It is clear to me that no real action is intended or has been intended to stop this, just enough to keep the matter on the boil, while such satanic evil takes place, but one asks why? for what purpose? It suggests to me a black operation of the most despicable and cynical kind. beyond comprehension.

    The Yazedi women are suffering terribly as you report, the Christian Church is being destroyed, deep hate is being formented against the ‘nasty’ Muslims -who have nothing to do with this. The right wingers across the World, including those in the Church sadly point their finger at the Muslims, taking their justification from the old testament while ignoring Gospel teaching,

    the pot is stirred, meanwhile Iran is identified as the ‘real’ enemy, and perhaps the thinking is that the reaction eventually from an enraged world would be a massive overreaction later down the line re a sort of Iraq war 2, pushed by a new right wing President, the militarists and the arms industry,

    the way to stop this evil now is for the Muslim world to see what is really going on and to go in a stop IS immediately using all means at their disposal, because not only because they are as appalled and outraged by what is happening as any of us, if not more so because their religion is being constantly used or misused as their justification for such evil, which is a complete lie, but also because also they collectively may also be the ultimate target. maybe next to go would be Iran. Who next; Saudi Arabia?

    this might explain why I believe IS is being deliberately allowed to continue this evil as a matter of policy of the darkest kind, rather than being destroyed by the coalition which could be -very quickly- done

    I would also appeal to right thinking Leaders in countries like the US to demand, insist upon action NOW to destroy IS, not later..

  7. Paras Kumar says:

    it must be immediate death to isis.

  8. Stephen says:

    It is difficult to comprehend the suffering in this region and from our western viewpoint the bland decision of the Yazidi leader to seperate the raped/pregnant women from their children is also hard to accept. C4 News shows us daily that other regions organise themselves differently but to my biased viewpoint it seems like nothing has been learnt since medevial times. They can use an iPhone and shoot a machine gun but treat women like their ancestors did.

  9. mark marley says:

    Why did they ghost out the girl faces when they did not ghost them out when the story aired on TV? The girls were very pretty and their faces should be shown. Especially the red head.

  10. Rose says:

    Thank you Channel 4 and Jonathan Rugman for their bereavement,
    Ezidi Kurds specially women needs our support more then ever.
    We should make their voices to be heard all around the world.

  11. Jon Gill says:

    Like always channel 4 ignore the suffering of Christians in Iraq. I hope the yezidies find everlasting safety and happiness.

Comments are closed.