A woman recently rescued from ISIS, with her face covered, embraces friends and relatives in Duhok. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A Yezidi family of four returned home and was reunited with relatives in the Kurdistan Region after nearly five years under ISIS. Eleven Yezidis have been rescued this month so far. Families and officials are pleading for international help as the battle for the last territory held by the extremists enters its final stage.
The family of four who were recently rescued are a mother, two daughters, and a son. They agreed to speak to media, but asked to remain anonymous as they fear for the safety of another two sons who are still held by ISIS.
"We were initially taken to Mosul. They later took us to Tal Afar and from there to Syria. We were placed in Syria for four years and thankfully we are finally back in Kurdistan," said the mother.
She and her children burst into tears when they were reunited with relatives and close friends at Sharia camp in Duhok.
"We suffered a lot under Daesh. May God help others return safely,” she said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Ghazal Khalaf, an elderly Yezidi woman living in the camp, urged the international community to help rescue others still held by ISIS.
"There are still thousands under them, under the enemy. We are urging all countries to give us a helping hand," Khalaf pleaded.
When ISIS attacked Shingal, it took more than 6,000 Yezidis captive – mainly women and children. So far, 3,342 have been freed. Another 3,117 are known to still be missing, said Hussein Qasim, of the KRG’s committee for the recognition of the genocide.
Since the beginning of January, 11 Yezidis have been rescued from ISIS and efforts are ongoing to find the rest and bring them back home safely.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have pushed ISIS into a pocket of territory on the Euphrates River valley in Syria’s Deir ez-Zor on the border with Iraq.
A Canadian member of ISIS recently captured by the SDF said that the towns still held by ISIS are very crowded as the group gets pushed into an ever smaller area.
Estimates of between 11,000 and 20,000 people have fled ISIS control since early December – this includes civilians and ISIS fighters with their families.
It is not known how many Yezidis may be among the population in the battle zone. ISIS militants were known to have brought their captives with them as they moved. Some may also be in camps among the displaced Syrians and captured ISIS.
The KRG is continuing its efforts to find the missing.
"There are plans set out and efforts underway to rescue the remaining Yezidis and our people," Hassan Qaid, in charge of the Yezidi rescue office, told Rudaw.
"Search operations are ongoing to locate others,” he said.
With reporting by Mahdi Faraj