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ISIS forcing Yazidi conversions, marriages

DOHUK, Iraq (BP) — The ISIS terrorist group has imprisoned hundreds of Yazidis in Iraq and Syria, forcing men and boys to convert to Islam and enslaving the younger women as jihadists’ brides, Human Rights Watch has reported.

“The Islamic State’s litany of horrific crimes against the Yazidis in Iraq only keeps growing,” Fred Abrahams, Human Rights Watch special adviser said in a press release, referencing reports from families of the victims. “We heard shocking stories of forced religious conversions, forced marriage and even sexual assault and slavery — and some of the victims were children.”

The precise number of detainees is not known, HRW reported, because fighting is ongoing in Iraq, and the vast majority of Yazidis, Christians, and other religious minorities have fled. Dozens of escapees are believed to be in hiding.

ISIS has separated young women and teenage girls from their families and forced some to marry ISIS fighters, HRW reported, based on accounts from dozens of relatives of the detainees, 16 Yazidis who escaped ISIS, and two detained women interviewed by phone. According to accounts, one girl was sold for $1,000.

The systematic abduction and abuse of Yadizis may amount to crimes against humanity, HRW said. The Yazidi people are Kurds who embrace a hodgepodge of religious practices and beliefs including baptism, and are labeled by Muslims as devil worshippers. ISIS is accused of attempting ethnic genocide aimed at expanding Islamic rule in the region.

In September and October, HRW interviewed 76 displaced Yazidis in Duhok, Zakho, Erbil and surrounding areas in Iraqi Kurdistan, who reported ISIS was holding 366 of their family members. Those interviewed provided lists of names, identity cards, photographs or other details to substantiate their reports of detainees, HRW said. Some of those interviewed estimated the number of prisoners at more than 1,000.

One witness reported seeing ISIS fighters take about 10 women and girls from Badoush Prison near Mosul and from a school in Tal Afar, forcing the females to become brides and even giving them gold as a mahr, a dowry from a husband. The witness, Naveen, said she escaped in early September with her four children ages 3-10.

Some of the women taken as brides had to be pulled away with force and ranged in age from 12-20, Naveen said. Days after being captured, the enslaved brides were allowed to return briefly to the prison.

“They married us; we had no choice,” the women told Naveen. They had gold given them by their captors and were crying, Naveen said.

Adlee, a 17-year-old girl who managed to escape, said she had been taken to a house in Fallujah by a “big bearded man” who claimed her as his bride.

“They [ISIS fighters] were hitting us and slapping us to make us surrender,” Adlee said. “As much as we could, we didn’t let them touch our bodies. Everything they did, they did by force.”

The statements of current and former detainees raise serious concerns about rape and sexual slavery by ISIS, HRW said, while the stigma of rape among Yazidis and fear of reprisal deter some victims from reporting the crimes they suffered.

More than 500,000 Yazidis and other religious minorities, including Christians, have fled northern Iraq since ISIS attacks began in June, according to news reports. In attacks around Sinjar since August, ISIS has killed perhaps hundreds of Yazidi males and captured their relatives.

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