Shirin, a former Yazidi ISIS captive, addresses the 9th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.

9th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, Tuesday, February 21, 2017

On her capture by ISIS:

“First, the men and women were separated. The men had to stay in Hardan, including my brother…We suspect they were murdered for several mass graves were found around Hardan.”

“Women were separated from their mothers and they were sent off for sexual slavery.”

On her personal ordeal as a sex slave:

“I was sold several times and I became pregnant and I realised two months later that I was pregnant but by that time I’d been bought by another man. I wanted to abort the child and I took medicine and carried heavy things, hoping to miscarry. It happened, but I was very sick and I became very ill because of it.”

“I was captured by the Islamic State for nine months and was sold nine times and I was very mistreated and raped.”

On what can be done for the Yazidi people:

“We must locate the mass graves and study the DNA; there must be international recognition of the massacre of the Yazidi people as genocide; protection must be provided for indigenous people such as the Yazidi; we must help the Yazidi refugees outside of Iraq in Greece and in Turkey.”

“My deepest wish is to liberate the 3000 women who are still in detention. The leaders of ISIS are responsible for these attacks and should be brought before the International Criminal Court.”

Full Remarks

I would like to thank you very much for this invitation. 

My name is Shirin, I’m 20 years old and I come from the village of Hardin in the district of Shingal. I’m from a middle-class family. My family consisted of seven family members. My father worked as an electrician, my mother was a housewife who took care of us and of the household. I had two brothers and sisters, we attended school. My wish was to become a lawyer and fight for justice and women’s rights. 

Everything changed for my family on the 3rd of August 2014. On that day, the Islamic State attacked Shingal. Our men had only rudimentary weapons to defend the region. Then, the south of Shingal fell and ISIS moved towards Hardan and it continued to move on from one place to the next. One of our Sunni neighbours said they were going to come and told us we shouldn’t fear for our lives because they would not do us any harm. We should raise white flags and show we had no weapons or uniforms.

Nonetheless, my cousin, Salim was 19 years old. He was called by his Sunni teacher who told him that the Islamic State would soon be attacking Hardan. They would be killing all the men and kidnapping them and enslaving the women and children. The news spread rapidly. We and our neighbours prepared to take flight immediately. We didn’t know what was awaiting us and what our fate would be, but we couldn’t get away. We were arrested at 6 o’clock, I and 26 family members and 350 other families from the village. 

At first, the men and women were separated. The men had to stay in Hardan, including my brother. The boys and young people under 16 stayed with the women. We suspect they were murdered for several mass graves were found around Hardan. I was alone in a car and my mother and sisters were in another car. We had to hand over our money, our jewellery, our IDs, our mobile phones. We were told that we would no longer need the IDs. 

We were brought to Badush first. The older women were sent off to work as servants. I was part of a group of 700 other women. We were separated into three groups; one went to Raqqa, and the remaining 70 women including myself stayed in Tal Afar. One day later, boys and adolescents between the age of five and fifteen were taken out, including my brother Azad, who was nine. Then, other women were separated from their mothers and they were sent off for sexual slavery and we learnt that the Islamic State had planned the attack. Later, I saw my brother Nessa; he was detained for five months. 

I was a servant, I had to pray five times a day, I was in charge of the breakfast and dinner. The last man who bought me did so because of the misdeeds he had done to get a good conscience. I was sold several times and I became pregnant and I realised two months later that I was pregnant but by that time I’d been bought by another man. I wanted to abort the child and I took medicine and carried heavy things, hoping to miscarry. It happened, but I was very sick and I became very ill because of it. I was captured by the Islamic State for nine months and was sold nine times and I was very mistreated and raped. The last man who bought me did so, as I said, to make up for what he had done. Afterwards, I was sent to Bedan and was treated. 

After my liberation, I looked for a job so that I could forget these bad memories and I met the organisation called the International Society for Human Rights, Frankfurt am Main. At the time they were distributing donations and relief supplies to the refugee camps. We were treated medically, we were given special therapies which have helped me to continue to live today. 

For all the organisations here or the cooperative groups, my deepest wish is to liberate the 3000 women who are still in detention. The leaders of ISIS are responsible for these attacks and should be brought before the International Criminal Court or other international courts. We must do a number of things: we must take aid projects and help them to be accepted; we must locate the mass graves and study the DNA; there must be international recognition of the massacre of the Yazidi people as genocide; protection must be provided for indigenous people such as the Yazidi; we must help the Yazidi refugees outside of Iraq in Greece and in Turkey. They must be supported. The Iraqi government must be urged to begin the reconstruction of the destroyed villages of the Yazidi and to provide other adequate infrastructure.

Thank you.