Posted July 2, 2016 5:48 PM ET; Last updated July 5, 2016 8:33 PM ET
Lamiya Aji Bashar, an 18-year-old Yazidi girl who escaped her Islamic State group enslavers.
[Updated July 5, 2016 8:33 PM ET]
The advertisement on the Telegram app is as chilling as it is incongruous: A girl for sale is “Virgin. Beautiful. 12 years old…. Her price has reached $12,500 and she will be sold soon.”
The posting in Arabic appeared on an encrypted conversation along with ads for kittens, weapons and tactical gear. It was shared with the Associated Press by an activist with the minority Yazidi community, whose women and children are being held as sex slaves by the extremists.
While the Islamic State group is losing territory in its self-styled caliphate, it is tightening its grip on the estimated 3,000 women and girls held as sex slaves. In a fusion of ancient barbaric practices and modern technology, IS sells the women like chattel on smartphone apps and shares databases that contain their photographs and the names of their “owners” to prevent their escape through IS checkpoints. The fighters are assassinating smugglers who rescue the captives, just as funds to buy the women out of slavery are drying up.
The thousands of Yazidi women and children were taken prisoner in August 2014, when IS fighters overran their villages in northern Iraq with the aim to eliminate the Kurdish-speaking minority because of its ancient faith. Since then, Arab and Kurdish smugglers managed to free an average of 134 people a month. But by May, an IS crackdown reduced those numbers to just 39 in the last six weeks, according to figures provided by the Kurdistan regional government.
Mirza Danai, founder of the German-Iraqi aid organization Luftbrucke Irak, said in the last two or three months, escape has become more difficult and dangerous.Modal Trigger
“They register every slave, every person under their owner, and therefore if she escapes, every Daesh control or checkpoint, or security force — they know that this girl … has escaped from this owner,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the group.
The AP has obtained a batch of 48 head shots of the captives, smuggled out of the IS-controlled region by an escapee, which people familiar with them say are similar to those in the extremists’ slave database and the smartphone apps.
Lamiya Aji Bashar tried to flee four times before finally escaping in March, racing to government-controlled territory with Islamic State group fighters in pursuit. A land mine exploded, killing her companions, 8-year-old Almas and Katherine, 20. She never learned their last names.
The explosion left Lamiya blind in her right eye, her face scarred by melted skin. Saved by the man who smuggled her out, she counts herself among the lucky.
“I managed in the end, thanks to God, I managed to get away from those infidels,” the 18-year-told the AP from a bed at her uncle’s home in the northern Iraqi town of Baadre. “Even if I had lost both eyes, it would have been worth it, because I have survived them.”
The Sunni extremists view the Yazidis as barely human. The Yazidi faith combines elements of Islam, Christianity and Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion. Their pre-war population in Iraq was estimated around 500,000. Their number today is unknown.
Nadia Mourad, an escapee, has appeared before the US Congress and the European Parliament to appeal for international help.
“Daesh is proud of what it’s done to the Yazidis,” she said to Parliament. “They are being used as human shields. They are not allowed to escape or flee. Probably they will be assassinated. Where is the world in all this? Where is humanity?”
IS relies on encrypted apps to sell the women and girls, according to an activist who is documenting the transactions and asked not to be named for fear of his safety.
[. . .]
In addition to the posting for the 12-year-old in a group with hundreds of members, the AP viewed an ad on WhatsApp for a mother with a 3-year-old and a 7-month-old baby, with a price of $3,700. “She wants her owner to sell her,” read the posting, followed by a photo.
Like the Bible, some passages of the Quran implicitly condone slavery, which was widespread when the holy book emerged. It also allows men to have sex with both their wives and “those they possess with their right hands,” taken by interpreters to refer to female slaves.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, most Muslim scholars backed the banning of slavery, citing Quranic verses that say freeing them is a blessing. Some hard-liners, however, continued to insist that under Shariah, sex slavery must be permitted, though the Islamic State group is the first in the modern era to bring it into organized practice.
[. . .]
The odds of rescue, however, grow slimmer by the day. The smuggling networks that have freed the captives are being targeted by IS leaders, who are fighting to keep the Yazidis at nearly any cost, said Andrew Slater of the nonprofit group Yazda, which helps document crimes against the community and organizes refuge for those who have fled.
Kurdistan’s regional government had been reimbursing impoverished Yazidi families who paid up to $15,000 in fees to smugglers to rescue their relatives, or the ransoms demanded by individual fighters to give up the captives. But the Kurdish regional government no longer has the funds. For the past year, Kurdistan has been mired in an economic crisis brought on by the collapse of oil prices, a dispute with Iraq’s central government over revenues, and the fallout from the war against the Islamic State.
Even when IS retreats from towns like Ramadi or Fallujah, the missing girls are nowhere to be found.
“Rescues are slowing. They’re going to stop. People are running out of money, I have dozens of families who are tens of thousands of dollars in debt,” Slater said. “There are still thousands of women and kids in captivity but it’s getting harder and harder to get them out.”
Lamiya was abducted from the village of Kocho, near the town of Sinjar, in the summer of 2014. Her parents are presumed dead. Somewhere, she said, her 9-year-old sister Mayada remains captive. One photo she managed to send to the family shows the little girl standing in front of an IS flag.
Five other sisters all managed to escape and later were relocated to Germany. A younger brother, kept for months in an IS training camp in Mosul, also slipped away and is now staying with other relatives in Dahuk, a city in the Iraqi Kurdish region.
Sitting very still and speaking in a monotone, Lamiya recounted her captivity, describing how she was passed from one IS follower to another, all of whom beat and violated her. She was determined to escape.
She said her first “owner” was an Iraqi IS commander who went by the name Abu Mansour in the city of Raqqa, the de-facto IS capital deep in Syria. He brutalized her, often keeping her handcuffed.
[. . .]
She tried to run away twice but was caught, beaten and raped repeatedly. After a month, she said, she was sold to another IS extremist in Mosul. After she spent two months with him, she was sold again, this time to an IS bomb-maker who Lamiya said forced her to help him make suicide vests and car bombs.
“I tried to escape from him,” she said. “And he captured me, too, and he beat me.”
When the bomb-maker grew bored with her, she was handed over to an IS doctor in Hawija, a small IS-controlled Iraqi town. She said the doctor, who was the IS head of the town hospital, also abused her.
This is the face of the ISIS sex slave market
By Associated Press
New York Post
July 5, 2016 | 3:40pm
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[Posted July 2, 2016 5:48 PM ET]
When ISIS laid siege to the Yazidi villages that dot Iraq’s Mount Sinjar in 2014, members of the religious minority soon learned neighbors they’d known for generations were not their friends after all, according to one woman who was recently rescued after more than a year in the terrorist army’s clutches.
From the very first days of the August 2014 siege, the Yazidi community began to lose hope as they descended from their mountain home into a nightmare of misery and death. Muslim families they had lived side-by-side with for generations turned on them, “Zana,” a 32-year-old Yazidi woman whose freedom was purchased from ISIS in March, told FoxNews.com in a Skype interview from the Kurdish-run camp where she now lives.
"When ISIS came they said they didn’t want to fight us, they told us to give them our weapons,” Zana said. “We gave them everything we had – these were our Muslim neighbors. But so many of them had become ISIS and we didn’t know.”
In a story similar to that told by dozens of Yazidis, Zana recalled the day ISIS assaulted her village at the foot of Mount Sinjar. The elderly were summarily executed where they were found, she recalled. Men and women were separated, with older men dragged off to mosques where they were killed and females – including girls as young as 8 -- loaded onto cars and trucks bound for Mosul.
“ISIS took me, my sister, my brother’s wife and my little sister,” Zana recalled, her eyes filling with tears. “For 13 days, we were put in a school – we didn’t know what would happen. There were about 50 people – women and children – squashed into a room. There was no water for us to wash ourselves, the children were sick.”
Her nightmare was just starting.
Zana lied to her captors that she was married, thinking somehow it might spare her from their evil intentions. Her captors were unmoved, and she and dozens of others were taken to a well-guarded building in the Iraqi city of Telafar. Yazidi girls under the age of 14 were taken away to be sold at auction. The remaining women were soon introduced to ISIS fighters and told they were now their property and would accompany them to Syria.
ISIS justifies killing, raping and enslaving Yazidis by calling them “devil worshippers,” as their very ancient religion blends elements from all the Abrahamic faiths. Yazidi are ethnically Kurds, but follow a pre-Islamic faith. Of the 500,000 Yazidi in Iraq, more than 200,000 have been displaced or killed since the rise of ISIS, according to the United Nations.
Zana told FoxNews.com she managed to escape her quarters in the dead of the night, and related how she knocked on a stranger’s door to beg for help.
“I asked them, ‘Please give me a phone to call my relatives, I don’t need anything from you. I just want to call my relatives,’” she said.
The family refused to help her contact relatives, but made her work in their home for nearly a week, she said. Then, they turned her back over to her tormentors, she said.
“They called and said, ‘There is a girl who wants to escape, she is with us, come and take her,’” Zana said. “So ISIS came. And I cried.”
Her angry captors put her in a prison cell while an investigation was conducted into how she was able to escape. Days later, she was transferred to another facility in Telafar and forced to convert to Islam under threat of death, she said. She witnessed a dozen fellow Yazidi captives’ executions, punishment for their own escape attempts, she said.
Zana and another woman were given to a jihadist and sent to live with him in the ISIS stronghold of Mosul.
“He took me to his place, they were flats. Small tourist flats. It was a tourist community,” Zana said, her eyes cast down.
It was there, Zana said, that she was raped for the first time. For the next five months, she remained inside Mosul, handed off to another militant who locked her in a small room.
“I cooked for him, I washed his clothes, and I cleaned the house. I did everything,” Zana said. “But he became very aggressive if I didn’t do something just as wanted, and he would attack me.
“I told him that they might be killing our people now, but one day we will get to take our revenge,” she said.
In the ensuing months, Zana was passed along by a string of ISIS fighters from different Arab countries, and shuffled from city to city, including the ISIS capital of Raqqa, Syria. When she was sent to Iraq’s Anbar Province, west of Baghdad, she managed to lock eyes with a civilian woman.
“I whispered my number to her and said, ‘Please call me family,’” Zana recounted. “She told me not to worry. They knew a guy who could help rescue me.”
But rescue missions don’t come cheap, as rescuers often need to pay off local tribesmen or hatch elaborate plans to buy girls back from their captors. Scores of Yazidi families have gone into tremendous debt selling what little they have to liberate their stolen loved ones, but have received some assistance from the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the northern part of Iraq.
In Zana’s case, thousands of dollars were scrambled together and she was “bought” by a rescuer known to her family. On March 22, 2016, she was freed.
Now living in a sprawling camp for displaced Yazidi in the northern Iraq city of Duhok, which is part of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, Zana feels the pain of loss and the scars of her ordeal. Both of her parents died at the hands of ISIS and her sisters were taken.
“It’s a tough situation,” she said. “But I’m still here.”
Escape from ISIS: Yazidi woman recounts life as a sex slave
By Hollie McKay
Published July 01, 2016