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Closure of Iraq charity places Yazidi sex slaves ‘at risk’

January 5, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Women, who were enslaved by Daesh, found refugee in Yazda, the Yazidi-led charity aid organisation [@maankhider/Twitter]

The closure of a charity providing treatment for trauma to Yazidi sex slaves who escaped from Daesh militants in northern Iraq by the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will damage the victims’ chances of recovery, the charity’s head said yesterday.

The Yazidi-led charity, Yazda, based in the KRG administered city of Dohuk, had been providing aid and mental healthcare to Yazidi women and girls who have been raped and enslaved by Daesh since 2014.

Executive director of Yazda, Murad Ismael, said its offices were shut down on Monday by Kurdish authorities who accused the group of being illegally involved in “political activities”.

Ismael said the accusations were “baseless” and that many women and children’s lives were now at risk because they can no longer receive psychological treatment for their trauma.

“The centre saves lives but the services are not there now. Case workers can no longer visit them in the camps, and they can’t come to our centre,” Ismael told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Iraq.

While there are other aid groups in the region, Ismael said survivors felt more comfortable talking to Yazidi counsellors about their experiences. He said many rescued women would have committed suicide if Yazda’s therapists were not there to help.

Besides offering support to former Daesh captives, Yazda has also been documenting evidence of mass killings committed by Daesh against his community, Ismael said.

Thousands of women and girls were abducted, tortured and sexually abused by Daesh fighters after the militants rounded up Yazidis in the village of Kocho, near Sinjar in northwest Iraq, in 2014.

Since then, some have escaped and been rescued but as many as 3,500 remain in Daesh captivity, according to a recent estimate provided by the office that handles kidnappings in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

Yazidis are an ethno-religious sect whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions. Daesh considers them devil-worshippers.

Iraqi forces are now fighting to retake the city of Mosul, the militants’ last major stronghold in Iraq, where many Yazidis were held.