Fighting to get the Yazidi genocide recognised after surviving the horrors of the Islamic State
by Eman Abdulla

Eman Abdulla was kidnapped in the summer of 2014 and was held by jihadis for nine months. The young woman was raped, sold and enslaved. Today she works for an association that is fighting to save young victims of violence. Winner of the 2019 Mother Teresa Award, the group is fighting for the international recognition of the tragedy that befell her people.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) –Eman Adbulla is an 18-year-old Yazidi woman. Kidnapped in 2014, she was freed after spending nine months in the hands of the Islamic State (IS) group. In her story, she describes violence, rape and torture, and calls on the world to listen to the true experiences of so many girls and women still captive.

She is hoping to see “truth and justice” prevail, pushing the international community to follow Kurdistan’s parliament, which on 3 August voted to recognise the genocide of the Yazidi people.

I was raped, beaten, forced to convert to Islam and reduced to a sex slave,” Eman said. Today she works for an NGO based in Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan, which cares for Yazidis who escaped the Islamic State. In total, some 3,515 people captured in 2014 have been freed and cared for: 1,983 children, 1,193 women and 339 men.

The association is one of the winners of  2019 Mother Teresa Award. Eman was present at the official ceremony handing out the coveted award last Sunday, where she spoke about her own experience and issued an appeal for the recognition of the genocide her people endured in the past few years. Here is her story (edited for clarity):

I am the voice of a Yazidi girl enslaved by Isis (Islamic State group).

I am a Yazidi girl from Sinjar. I have been living in a tent in the Sharya camp for displaced war-affected populations, in Duhok province in Kurdistan Region, for five years.

I was only 13 when I was kidnapped with six members of my family, including my mother, 12-year-old sister and my baby brother. I have been enslaved, put up for sale in public markets, spent 12 months in captivity and sold three times. I was raped, beaten, forced to convert to Islam and reduced to a sex slave.

I was ransomed back through the office of former Kurdistan’s PM who is the current president and after a three-day walk in a desert, I was rescued in Nineveh province. I was taken to hospital in Duhok and then sent to the Sharya camp, where my family and I reunited and were given a canvas tent to shelter us.

In the last four years, we have lived in the camp near a military base in our area. We can’t go back home. I'm overwhelmed by constant fear: fear of being attacked again, of being kidnapped, tortured, enslaved; I am still woken up regularly by nightmares, screaming and calling for help.

As a young person, during the day, I work in the office that rescues Yazidis to help others who are still in captivity. In addition, I can’t forget what I experienced with the Islamic State. About 2,902 people are still in captivity, going through what I went through. I am sure they are in a situation that is even worse now. 

On 4 August, at a gathering in Duhok to mark the 5th anniversary of the Yazidi genocide, I addressed an audience of a thousand, including the President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, Yazidi Spiritual leader Meer Hazim Beg, as well as UN officers and foreign diplomats, calling on them to put an end to the Yazidi genocide and work towards rebuilding Sinjar and ensuring the safe return of displaced people to their hometown.

I called on the international community to help resolve the outstanding political disputes between Iraq’s central government and the Kurdistan regional government and to determine the status of Sinjar according to Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, which stipulates a referendum to decide its fate.

I said that the Peshmerga forces were of great help and, together with the Iraqi army, they should be able to guarantee the safe return of Yazidis to their holy land.

I dream of going back home, of living in a proper house, having a room to myself. I dream of going out on holidays, like any normal teenage girl. Above all, I dream of being able to laugh again, since, after such disasters, I've forgotten what it means to be happy and to laugh.

The Kurdistan Region’s parliamentary vote on 3 August is an important step towards recognising the Yazidi genocide. The international community should follow the lead of the Kurdistan Region and recognise what happened to us Yazidis as a genocide and designate 3 August as Yazidi Genocide Remembrance Day. Such a step is important so that what happened to the Yazidi community is not forgotten.

I might be a powerless teenage in a refugee camp, but I decided to share my story and speak out so that you readers could hear the untold real-life experiences of so many girls and women still trapped in the camps, with the hope of establishing truth and justice. 

(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)