Hanan, 19, was captured by ISIS when militants took the town of Sinjar
She was among the women and girls separated to be sold as sex slaves
Editor’s Note: The names in this report have been changed out of security concerns for Yazidi family members still being held by ISIS.
In the canvas expanse of the Shariya refugee camp, thousands of Yazidis live within hearing distance of one of Iraqi Kurdistan’s frontlines with ISIS.
The vast majority of the camp’s occupants are from the town of Sinjar and fled the ISIS assault there back in August. But not everyone escaped. ISIS took thousands of Yazidis captive.
Men faced a choice – convert to Islam or be shot. But the Islamist militants separated the young women and girls to be sold as sex slaves.
In its fourth edition of “Dabiq,” the ISIS online magazine, an article titled “The revival of slavery before the hour,” outlines the group’s twisted justification and guidelines for the enslavement of the Yazidis.
“One should remember that enslaving the families of the kuffar (infidels) and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of Shariah,” the article reads.
We’re told that women who have just given birth or are breastfeeding are considered impure and cannot be taken as sexual slaves – but Hanan, 19, was neither of those things.
“They separated all of us,” she says. “They dragged us away by our hair. They took married women, young ones. The youngest with us was just 10. We were all crying.
“They said we are going to marry you off, you will forget your family.”
’Sex slave warehouse’
For the first week, Hanan was held with 50 others, regularly beaten and threatened with torture, and fed just a bowl of rice.
The group was then taken to a three story building in Mosul she described as a sex slave warehouse, where hundreds of girls and women were held.
“They would line about 50 of us up at a time, in rows of 10. They would say don’t move, don’t cry or we will beat you. The men would come in and describe the kind of girl they wanted and then they would pick and choose as they pleased,” she recalls.
She was eventually chosen, part of a group of 25. From that group Hanan was separated into a smaller group of seven and taken into a house in a village.
Two ISIS fighters guarded the door and ordered the girls to clean and bathe themselves.
“They brought in a Yazidi girl who had been with them for two months. She was wearing the black niqab. They said to us we are going to do to you what we did to her,” Hanan says. “The girl spoke to us in Kurdish and said they beat me, they cuffed me and raped me.”
Hanan and the others decided they had to try to escape. That night they crawled out the bedroom window.
“The fourth girl jumped out, I was the fifth. I crawled to the wall and was about to jump over it and then I saw their flashlight,” she tells me. “They caught the last two girls.”
They ran, and somehow evaded capture. Four hours later they were out of ISIS territory.
“If I just see someone with a beard I start shaking,” Hanan says.
Now physically free but mentally still captive, Hanan remains tormented – like so many others, by what she has been through and what those still with ISIS are being forced to endure – a fate worse than death.