Yezidi women and girls celebrate their New Year at Lalish, in the Duhok province, Kurdistan Region, on April 15, 2018. Photo: A.C. Robinson | Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A recent evaluation of formerly enslaved Yezidi women and girls in the Kurdistan Region is the first comprehensive study proving traumatized individuals are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
"The current study demonstrated the psychosocial consequences of genocide and enslavement among Yazidi women and girls living in (Internally Displaced Persons) IDP camps in (the Kurdistan Region of Iraq) KRI," read the report published on Thursday.
The assessment using ethical practices for research was approved by Bielefeld University in Germany and Koya University in the Kurdistan Region.
The participants of the study consisted of 416 women and girls between the ages of 17 and 75 years old at the time of assessment who survived ISIS control in Iraq and Syria (with 65 of them surviving sexual enslavement.)
The assessment of the 416 women and girls took place between February and July 2017 by local, trained mental health professionals.
Over 80 percent of women and girls, and almost all of those who had previously been enslaved, reported several traumatic events and met the criteria of a PTSD diagnosis as well as poor mental health.
Additionally, the women and girls who had survived sexual enslavement "perceived social rejection in their community" adding to their poor mental condition and depression symptoms.
Of all the participants, 99 percent experienced at least one traumatic event throughout the period of conflict. 85.1 percent experienced food and water deprivation. 63.7 percent were directly exposed to armed combat related events. Half of the women and girls were forcefully separated from their family members. 43.5 percent experienced witnessing explosions or fires.
Assessments concluded that formerly enslaved women and girls had significantly higher levels of PTSD and depression.
The report showed that 44.6 percent of formerly enslaved women felt "extremely excluded by community members." 49.2 percent reported extreme worry of what people thought of them and what they had endured.
Of the formerly enslaved, 40 percent said they avoided people or social situations within the IDP camps for fear of being stigmatized or rejected and 32.3 percent worried about not being able to get married or continue in their current marriage.
"Our results scientifically documented that Yazidi women and girls had experienced genocide and other instances of suppression and oppression by ISIS, with little action from the rest of the world to support them," the conclusion of the report read. "The present study illustrates the devastating psychological consequences of genocide and enslavement."
"Our findings call for urgent psychosocial intervention for Yazidi survivors of genocide," it added.
ISIS leader Abu Bakir al Baghdadi announced the so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria after they captured Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul in June 2014.
On August 3, 2014 ISIS militants invaded the Yezidi city of Shingal and its surrounding villages. They killed hundreds of men, women and children and took thousands of others captive where they were later sold as sex slaves and servants.
An estimated 2,500-5,000 Yezidis were killed by ISIS when the group took control of Shingal in 2014 in a campaign of genocide. A documented 6,417 Yezidis were captured.
To this day, 1,102 Yezidis, mostly women and young girls are still missing, according to recent statistics released by the Kurdistan Regional Government.