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Too difficult and expensive: Rescuing Yezidi women from ISIS almost impossible

By Judit Neurink 7/8/2016
Dr. Mirza Dinnayi. Photo: courtesy of AUIS
Dr. Mirza Dinnayi. Photo: courtesy of AUIS

Two years after militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) kidnapped over 6,000 Yezidis from their towns and villages in the Shingal region, the chance to get them back is diminishing fast, says Yezidi activist and medical doctor Mirza Dinnayi. In the past two years around 3,000 people were rescued from the extremist group, but recently the number has declined. Some of the captives are so damaged and indoctrinated that they no longer think escape is possible, while rescuing missions in general have become too difficult and too expensive for many families to afford. Dinnayi who has helped many Yezidi victims reach Germany for treatment, says that as it becomes almost impossible to rescue more captives, his focus is on getting former ISIS victims, especially women and young girls out of refugee camps to Europe where they could recover and start a normal life again.

Rudaw: How many people are still captive in ISIS (Daesh) territories? Both 3,200 and 3,700 figures have been mentioned?

The correct figure is about 3,700 and the difference between the figures is the men, the rest are women and children.

What should be done to get them out?

I am afraid it is too late. I think most of the men could be dead. When in April 2015 we had the option to rescue 3,500 of them from Talafar, neither the Iraqis, Kurdish nor the allied forces did anything even though they knew their situation there. There was a possibility to make a quick attack because the distance with the Peshmerga troops was no more than ten kilometers. You could release them within days. I do not know why they did not do anything. ISIS, after this, divided all the people. We do not know what happened to the 500 men since then. There were some reports that they were killed. And ISIS separated the women from the children and distributed the women all over their territories. Now it is very difficult to get them back.

In the past some 2,600 people were able to escape one way or another. Did that stop?

In the past our girls escaped and through smuggling networks were brought out. That was not expensive as you only had to pay these people. But escape is no longer possible. The girls are now completely destroyed psychologically. Most have been told that all Yezidis were killed or Islamized. They are brainwashed, and cannot escape. Also, ISIS has in the last year established special Sharia Courts to register all slaves under the name of their owners. So if a girl escapes, any checkpoint would know who to return her to.

The only way is to pay ISIS and that is now very expensive. The smugglers are asking money because it is a dangerous job now, and next to that you pay the ISIS fighter. He does not know that he is selling the woman to the outside, because it is forbidden, he thinks he sells her to another fighter. Three weeks ago I met a girl who was liberated this way. Her brother paid $22,000 for her. $12,000 to the ISIS fighter, about $3,000 to a middleman and $7,000 to the smuggler. He had borrowed the money from his neighbors, who are also living in the camp and are also poor.

Now the number of girls being bought back is very small, as money is the main problem. People cannot pay, and the government is not paying. The special office for Yezidi Affairs is treating people badly. I heard from the families of survivors that they are told there to negotiate about the price, even if they say they cannot. And even though the regulations are different, the office will only pay back afterwards. So the people have to find the money first themselves.

The only other way is to swap them for fighters. The PKK did it two or three times, and with every fighter exchanged they got back 30 to 50 girls.

How many girls or women were found in the towns that were liberated from ISIS?

Hardly any. Just a few from Falluja. That means ISIS takes them when they move, as they have become a commodity. Just like if you have gold, and there is a war, you take it. They do not leave the girls behind, who are in the main cities, and not in the villages.

You have organized, with KRG and your organization Luftbrücke Irak (Air bridge Iraq) the operation that brought girls and women who were saved from ISIS for treatment to Germany. Will this program be extended for more victims?

We transferred 1,100 victims, and would support the most vulnerable who want to leave, especially the victims of ISIS staying in the camps. We now have 1,643 of these survivors in Iraq, who are staying in tents, with all their traumas. Nobody takes care of them, although we have some NGOs trying to. I respect that, but it is not enough. Imagine a girl, woman or child, who lost everything and has been more than a year with ISIS, and with such bad experiences now lives in a tent. She is taken to a psychotherapist for 20 to 25 minute sessions and then sent back, and given some drugs to keep her clam… That is not a solution. A girl like that has no social or economic existence, no family left, and you try to solve her problems with drugs – that, by the way, she has to even buy herself?

Are you planning to get them out of Iraq for treatment?

Yes, I am working to find a way to get at least 90 percent of them out. I recognize what the NGO are trying to do, but I am not convinced that this will help them. Even so, they will not be happy outside either, as they have a lot of problems not related to migration. But I see our girls and women when they come over for a holiday, and then they cannot even stay here for the whole period, as here they have no existence, no health service…

How are the victims coping in Germany?

Till now we have seen nine or ten marriages of victims who went outside. About 60 percent of the group were children, and they go to school. All young girls are visiting the schools, some are trying to study, but many had little education. Their mothers are happy to see that, but it is not easy for them after what they have lost. Not easy, but much better than it would be here.

Will these victims ever be able to live a normal life again?

Our duty is to help them to live with their pain. But life will never be normal for them. The only hope is for their children: they will recover. The women feel stronger now, but normal it will never be for them again.


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Juana | 7/8/2016
The work this doctor is doing is important and I hope he can help many more but the way he portrays who's doing what is neither fair or accurate. First of all if he's Ezidi himself he denounces his own ethnicity when he says "the Kurds", Ezidis are Kurds. Second, no one has done more for the Ezidi Kurds than the Kurdistan regional government and the people of Kurdistan. While the central government in Baghdad has literally not lifted a finger for them the authorities in Erbil have payed millions of dollars to Ezidi families, both those who have lost family members and those who have members held hostage. KRG provides for the tens of thousends of displaced Ezidis and has also been at the for front in terms of lobbying and working on behalf of recognising the Ezidi Genocide. Last but not least the Peshmerga with the help of PKK have liberated more than 90% of Ezidi towns and villiags, that's not some small detail. It's not fair to blame Peshmerga for not moving on Tal Afar which is a ISIL stronghold when the Peshmerga are completely dependent on coalition air support, everyone knows by now that the Peshmerga have not received even 10% of the military aid the Iraqi army and Shia militias have by the coalition. I'm not saying be great full but at least don't spread a distorted false picture.
Dr. Sherzad Al-Khalifa | 7/8/2016
A comment about Juana's comment. It is absolutely true that the Kurd whether the Kurdish government or the PKK did a lot in helping the Yezidi people, the Kurdish govement helped immensely after the disaster and the PKK at the start of the attach by Daish when the PKK send its armed group from Syria into Singal to stop the killers and to transfer about 20,000 Yezides to Turkey and helped them though the Kurdish controlled municipal authorities to give them shelters and three meal a day, all these expenses was given indirectly by the PKK despite beeing poor themself. I know and seen this first hand at Shirnak Yesidies refugees camp there in December, 2014 when I left the UK to go directly to Shirnak to help as much as I can these desperate poor people and stayed with them for two weeks after taking as much help as possible and all this expensive was my personal contribution to this situation. While I was there, and talking with Yezides some of them became personal friends later, they all said that they do not feel they are Kurds but Yezidies, despite their language from Shingal to Turkey, Arminia and Gorgia speed The Kurdish dialect of Kurmangi. In effect they do not regard themselves as KURDS. That was a surprise to me, however, of course did not affect my feeling towards them a they are part of our nation. It was only later after I was thinking as why they do not regard them selves as Kurd while their religion ( original Kurdish religion) , culture and language are Kurdish, and then I thought that there are other example of this in the world. For example, if you take the Pakistanis and they are nothing put pure Indian except that they were forced ( or become by them selves) to became Moslems and over 1400 years of the alienation between these two areas they become completely separate nations , but with the same DNA!. Now, coming to the Yezidies, again over a very long time The Kurds who became Moslems looked down on the Kurds who keeps their original religion, and bit by bit the Yezidies withdrawn to remoter area of their homeland such as Shingal and other areas to be away from the persecution of the brothers of the opposit religion. If we read the history, the local Pasha in Mosel for example was conducting repeated genoside against the Yezidies with the help most often by the Kurdish Moseley tribes in the area. Of course decades after decades we can not expect the Yezidies to feel that they are the same as their persecuters, but as a separate entity. Having said that there are some Yezidies regards themselves as Kurd, but very few. Incident,y when I left the UK in 2010 to go to Duhok university to contribute towards the education in my old homeland, I notice that there was not cafe between Duhok and Barda rash, and when I asked why is that I never got a straight answer from my local friends including academic ones. Until I discovered that must these area has Yezidies villages and as the Moslem should never eat and drink from a " kafir" and that was a cultural sanction ( not official) for the Yezidies not to be able to open these cafe etc , apparently just in case my mistake a Moslem do not contaminated his " holy mouth" food or drink prepared by the brothers from the opposit religion. This then made sense to me how the Yezidies the original Kurds must feel over a thousand years.
kurt basar | 8/8/2016
The poor E-Zidies are suffering because of the malicious lies of those believers of the Bedouin Arab Camel shepherds fabricated & cancerous religion, which is backward, primitive & law of the desert savages. And those Muslim ISIL crusaders, who are commuted these savage and heinous crimes against the E-zidies are hire hands of the Turkish president Erdogan, who is recruiter, supporter & supplier of those ISIL savages with the Qatari & Saudis money, because of their fake believe of this sicking and barbaric Muslim religion, which is need to be wiped out from the face of the earth. I wonder, how the Mr. Erdogan, leaders of the KRG & all of the other Wahhabi Arab Kings of the Middle east would felt? if those ISIL Muslim savages kidnapped, raped and sold their daughters and wife's naked at the Sunni Arab bazaars? It's a shame and disgrace for those Muslims (Kurd's, Arabs, Turks & Iranians, etc), who are going to their rat houses Masque and pray to their warmonger Allah, while those poor E-Zidies are suffering, it's immoral, unjust & heart breaking.
Free the Ezidis | 8/8/2016
Thank you for the hard work, but do not give up on rescuing the women. Keep the pressure on. To any Ezidi women who has a chance to read this: You are not forgotten. Your captive's trust is your best chance for escape or at least a better life. Do whatever you must do to survive. The ISIS caliphate will fall.
Agri Newroz | 10/8/2016
The only way to bring permanent justice to Kurdistan is to send Islam to hell, otherwise we will have more Shingals, Halabjas, kobanes and Anfals to come. Flush qurans in toilette.

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