SPEAKING at a London press conference last week, 16-year-old Nihad Alawsi bravely told the story of her life as a former Isis sex slave. The violence inflicted on her by her kidnappers included regular rapes and beatings, and she was forced to bear — and then abandon — a child conceived with one of her rapists.
In August 2014, Nihad’s Yazidi village of Herdan, in northern Iraq, was overrun by Isis fighters who killed the men in the village and took her and 27 of her family members prisoner. At first, the villagers were taken to Syria before being returned to the Iraqi city of Mosul, where the girls were tortured and raped and taken away from their families.
“We were beaten and raped constantly for two weeks before I was chosen by an Isis emir and taken out to another area,” Nihad said, speaking through an interpreter. She then stayed with her kidnapper for six weeks, before he was killed, and she was taken by another Isis fighter.
After enduring continuing rape, she became pregnant and was taken to live with her captor’s family, including his wife and another kidnapped Yazidi girl. At first, she felt her unborn child was “a criminal of Daesh [Isis]” and she tried unsuccessfully to miscarry.
However, her attitude towards the child changed when he was born and she named him Issa. “I wanted to give him a Yazidi name because he was part of me, after all,” she said. “When the baby was born, [my kidnapper] took me to his cousin’s home and asked me to marry him,” she continued. “When I refused, he threatened to give me to his brother.
“Eventually, I managed to make a phone call to my family and to escape, but I had to leave Issa behind,” she said, before breaking down in tears. An Amar spokesperson said that Nihad’s family were contacted by her captors’ neighbours and they paid for her to be released. She was only allowed to leave though on the condition that her son was left behind.
It was one final and unimaginably devastating act of control exerted by Nihad’s captor. Later, she continued: “I’m now living in a house with my family. At least, the ones that aren’t still kidnapped. It is not really living though. I am not really living until the rest of my people are free from Daesh.”
An estimated 5,000 women and girls have been kidnapped by Isis fighters, with many bought and sold into sexual slavery in markets. Nihad’s comments were made at an event to raise awareness of the Amar Foundation’s Escaping Darkness campaign to help girls who have escaped from Isis.
Although the charity’s patron is Prince Charles, it receives no governmental funding from any country. When asked why, the charity’s founder Baroness Nicholson said: “It’s not because we haven’t asked, that’s for sure. The government say we’re too small to help but our overhead costs are fractional.”
To find out more, and to support Yazidi women and girls who are the victims of Isis violence, please visit appeal.amarfoundation.org
by Joe Lo