A Yazidi teenager describes what happens to women when Islamic State militants take over their town.
For 15-year-old Samia*, there’s not much left in Iraq after her brother was killed.
At 9 o’clock one morning in early August, she and her relatives ran out of their home and into the street to join a group of terrified Yazidi families. Word had spread of Islamic State group fighters approaching their village of Tal Azir in Sinjar.
When they arrived, the militants killed the Yazidi men, including Samia’s brother, and they took the women and girls to Mosul, where they ordered them to convert. Some of the girls were taken by the Islamic State militants. Some were given to the guards, and some were sold away. Others, Samia says, were given as “gifts” to other men.
“They were very bad to the girls,” Samia recalls quietly. “They were doing bad things to the women … illegal things.”
While the world is still grappling with reports of atrocities at the hands of the Islamic State group, Iraq’s minority groups in the north continue to suffer the brutalities firsthand — mass executions, beheadings, and sexual assaults among them. According to the United Nations, by the end of August, Islamic State militants had abducted up to 2,500 civilians, mostly women and children from northern Iraqi towns. The teenage boys and girls were sexually assaulted, and the women were trafficked or given away to Islamic State group fighters. Anyone who refused to convert risked being killed.
Samia managed to escape. She now lives with her parents in Khanke refugee camp near the town of Dohuk in Iraqi Kurdistan, and dreams of an Iraq free of the Islamic State group. “I hope that all the kidnapped Yazidis will be liberated from their hands.”
“As for me,” she says with a pained smile, “I want to work a decent job to support my family. And I want to leave Iraq… whatever I become — a doctor, a teacher — I don’t want to stay in this country.”
Even as her very recent past continues to haunt her, Samia struggles to imagine a brighter future for her country and her people.
“I hope the world is cleared of ISIL,” Samia says. “We want to free our people from their hands. We don’t want them to hurt our honor.”
*The name of the teenage girl in this story has been changed to protect her identity.
Interview conducted and filmed by Toby Muse. On Tuesday, the PBS NewsHour takes a look at the brutal treatment of women and girls by the Islamic State group.