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Human Rights

Tough Topic: Yazidi Women Enslaved by ISIS

Last week I stumbled upon a photo/story series called “Escaped” by Seivan Salim. Here is the introduction to the series:

On August 3rd 2014, ISIS insurgents attacked the northern Iraqi city of Sinjar, an area largely populated by the Yazidi, whom the militants view as “devil worshippers.” The militants shot and killed tens of thousands of people and kidnapped over 5,000 women who were sold into sexual slavery.

Photographer Seivan Salim interviewed a handful of Yazidi women who were able to escape. She photographed them wearing traditional white Yazidi wedding dresses, their cultural symbol for purity.

AZHIN, 22. From Kojo, Sinjar. Date of capture August 15, 2014. Held for 11 months

AZHIN, 22. From Kojo, Sinjar. Date of capture August 15, 2014. Held for 11 months

At first we were in prison in Raqqa for fifteen days. They behaved like animals. They traded us like you would with a car. A man from Saudi Arabia bought me and I was taken to a house where two other men lived as well. I begged him to let me be with my sister. He hit me on the head with his pistol until I bled. They didn’t take me to the hospital. Instead they took me back to the prison while I was still unconscious. 

My sister was sold three days later and I was heartbroken. But, we were reunited when I was sold later – along with seven other girls – to the same people. We were kept in a house during the day. Different men would come and pick us up for the night. We stayed like that for five months. There was not enough food and we couldn’t wash. I was sold again. 

This time for two months to a man from Tajikistan. He was later killed fighting, so I was sold again, and then again, but this time I was given as a present. I was forced to have sex up to six times per night. They always fastened my legs and arms when they raped me. 

One time I tried to run away but they caught me again. They didn’t feed me for six days and three times a day they would give me twelve lashes with a cable.I don’t know anything about my mum, dad and brothers. All I know is that my sisters were captured too.

Read more here.

This is only ONE story.

Thousands of Yazidi women remain enslaved by Isis, and as if the militants’ brutal, dehumanizing behavior isn’t bad enough, the perpetrators justify their behavior as God’s will. Here’s what an anonymous writer penned in the Isamic State’s magazine “Dabiq”:

Yazidi women and children [are to be] divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations [in northern Iraq] … Enslaving the families of the kuffar[infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narrations of the Prophet … and thereby apostatizing from Islam.


NOTE: This is not a representation of mainstream Islam, but is instead reflection of those who support Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the caliphate who has control over areas of Syria and Iraq.

So instead of wagging your finger at Islam, put your brain to good use and do some research on human trafficking. You’ll find that there are more slaves today than any other time in human history and that this is NOT an issue bound solely to war or the Middle East. There are millions, that’s right MILLIONS, of people (mostly women and children) being sold into slavery, thousands of whom are from the United States.

“Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world, second only to drug trafficking. And while drugs can be sold once, a person can be sold several times a day. It’s a business that brings in an estimated $150 billion every year.”

Targeted for their religious beliefs, the thousands of Yazidi women in captivity not only face the loss of their freedom, but their culture. Visit the websites below to help support the medical and psychological recovery of the Yazidi children and women who have escaped slavery.

The Jiyan Foundation

General/ Human Rights/ Inspiration/ Love & Relationships

To All My Soul Sisters

It’s hard to keep up with the boys.

That’s something my sister and I definitely understand. We learned how to shoot guns and hold back our tears. To this very day we’re known to be a bit “wild,” but we’ve  never given much thought to a little eyebrow-raisin’. Some people will just never get who we are. Sometimes we don’t even understand who we are.

The backdrop of our childhood was naturally wild. Acres upon acres of forests, woodlands and fields. And sky. Wide. open. sky. There was a freedom in its openness. We forged our identities in the wooded groves of the Arkansas prairie wetlands. We climbed magnolia and apple trees. We fell out of them. We ran in our backyards, uproarious and joyful, shameless and utterly content.

We were fierce in our happiness, part of a small rural town in Arkansas. Clean-cut around the edges, with adventurous hearts. We had safe neighborhoods to ride bikes in; and we had schools with teachers who cared about us. The fields by the roads flew by in parallel rows, but we grew wild, without the pruning of hollow flattery and polite reserve. Raised by tough men and hard-working women, we were unabashed and independent, innocent and wild.

For all the blessings in my life, the greatest one to date has been sisterhood. My mothers, aunts, sisters, grandmothers and girl friends have given me the chance to express myself free from a bias that infiltrates almost every aspect of our world. Sisterhood promotes honesty and laughter, courage and kindness. But, perhaps most importantly, it encourages self-respect and confidence in a patriarchal society.

Today I’m writing to all my sisters out there. Music lovers, artists, thinkers, mothers, waitresses, dreamers, dancers, writers, teachers — I believe women are powerful influencers in this world, and in a world full of hatred, fear, pain and suffering–a woman’s touch can go a long way.

One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that the structure of our society is bound together by sexism. We are paid less than men. We hold fewer positions of power. Our sensitivities are often dismissed or overrun by a societal aversion to vulnerability and emotion. Just because we don’t feel the sting of everyday sexism, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Preconceived notions of gender norms, like all biases, tend to hide in our collective mental blind spot, keeping us out of touch with what we are not in a position to see.

Within prescribed gender norms, women are dedicated to the happiness and well-being of others. We carry children in our wombs, nurse them, teach them and care for them, but I think what we actually inherit from womanhood is far more powerful than what society can dictate. Not only because of our biological identities, but because our hearts are wild and ungovernable, except by our deepest convictions. We are undeniably human, but also undeniably different than men.

In a world that is largely a boys’ club, sisterhood is an oasis of freedom. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that feminist issues are “just between us girls.” Husbands, dads, grandpas and brothers can be our best friends and biggest supporters. Our friends and family members are the ones who inspire us to move forward, to get better, to heal and find happiness. Their confidence gives us the freedom to express and explore who we are, and the more we show of our true selves, the stronger our hearts and our voices, and the more good we bring, together.


“If not me, who? If not now, when?”

Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador

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