The Islamic State continues to create some semblance of a functioning government across what was once a region belonging to Syria and Iraq, even engaging in the oil industry which could net ISIS hundreds of millions of dollars, further funding their criminal enterprise. ISIS is also engaged in another black market industry, the grim business of human trafficking. The industry kicked into high gear when ISIS captured the city of Sinjar, the home of the Yezidi religious minority. Regarding the Yezidi as heretical to their brand of Islam, ISIS engaged in the whole sale slaughter of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands of Sinjar’s residents. Of those captured, perhaps murder was not the worst fate that could fall upon the Yezidi.
I first learned about ISIS’ human trafficking from my friend and former interpreter Dakheel. He told me how his ten-year-old niece was abducted by ISIS fighters to be used for sexual slavery. Since then, the accounts of outrages perpetrated by ISIS against women and girls as young as nine, has only grown.
A 14-year-old Yezidi girl named Adeba, living in a small village outside of Sinjar, was trafficked by ISIS. With dozens of other girls she was trafficked around North Iraq. At each city they stopped at, some of the girls were given as gifts to ISIS fighters, ostensibly to improve their moral by allowing them to rape little girls. This was after the ISIS commander got first dibs on them to take their virginity. Others who are not given away as gifts are sold at a slave auction in cities like Mosul, the opening bid starting around ten dollars.
Forced marriages are also in order, and one Shia girl named Nada Qasim from Amerli, decided to shoot herself in the head rather than allow herself to be married off to a ISIS fighter. She knew the fate that awaited her. When other Iraqis from Amerli returned, “they found 15 women who had been raped and then hanged from a pipe by cable wire.” Some wealthy Yezidis are also trying to buy back abducted girls, but with limited success. Of the fifteen recovered, three of them killed themselves once they were freed, unable to live with the shame of being raped.
Adeba was one of the lucky ones. When she was trafficked to Rabbia she managed to escape due to the fact that control of the city is sharply contested by the PKK. In a moment of chaos, she fled and made her way to Dohuk. She told Reuters that, “I know I was lucky, God saved me.”
But for thousands of other Yezidi girls and women, god is sitting this one out.