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Amnesty: Yazidis face sexual violence from 'IS'

December 23, 2014

Women and girls belonging to Iraq's minority Yazidi group have been left deeply traumatized after encounters with "Islamic State" jihadis, according to an Amnesty report. The victims are in desperate need of support.

Jesiden im Nordirak Flüchtlinge Mädchen
Image: DW/Andreas Stahl

A report released Tuesday by London-based, human rights group Amnesty International said "torture, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, suffered by women and girls from Iraq's Yazidi minority who were abducted by the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS) highlights the savagery of IS rule," Amnesty said Tuesday at a briefing.

The report titled Escape from Hell tells the story of 42 women and girls were taken by Sunni IS militants, forcibly married or sold as sex slaves or given as gifts to fighters or supporters of the jihadis and who had managed to escape.

"Hundreds of Yazidi women and girls have had their lives shattered by the horrors of sexual violence and sexual slavery in IS captivity," said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Response Advisor, who spoke with the former captives in northern Iraq.

"Many of those held as sexual slaves are children - girls aged 14, 15 or even younger," Rovera added.

According to the report, up to 300 of the women and children abducted by IS had so far been able to escape but that the majority of the thousands of Yazidi men, women and children taken captive over the summer were still being held.

The rights group said that some of the abuses inflicted upon the Yazidi, including rape as a weapon in attacks and forced conversion to Islam, constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ethnic group follows a form of religion which includes elements from Christianity, Judaism and Islam and is thus viewed by the ultra-conservative Sunni-Wahhabi IS militants as sub-human devil worshipers.

"The physical and psychological toll of the horrifying sexual violence these women have endured is catastrophic. Many of them have been tortured and treated as chattel. Even those who have managed to escape remain deeply traumatized," said Rovera.

Amnesty said many of the survivors of sexual violence perpetrated by the IS were not receiving the full help and support they needed.

More medical attention needed

Germany's Development Minister Gerd Müller this week said Berlin was looking to set up a crisis centre for women who were abused by Islamic State militants. The program, however, would only be able to serve 100 people.

Since August, a US-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against the IS, which controls a large territory in Iraq and Syria that it calls a caliphate.

Germany has increased support for Iraqi Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga. Those fighters have reported gains in recent days.

On Monday, fighting between Islamic State militants and the Iraqi Army around Baquba, 60 kilometers north of Baghdad, left at least 33 people dead. The jihadist attacked government forces in several sites, an Iraqi security office told dpa.

sb/jm (dpa, AFP, AP)