At least 70 Yezidis freed from ISIS since start of Mosul offensive

At least 70 Yezidi Kurdish women and children have been freed from ISIS-controlled territories in Iraq and Syria since the start of an offensive against the militants in Mosul last week. “Over the past 10 days, particularly after the Mosul operation was launched, 70 Yezidi women and children have been freed from ISIS,” Hussein Koru, head of the Yezidi Women’s Rescue Bureau, told Rudaw. 

Koru did not want to reveal how the women and children were freed in order to ensure their safety, but he said that his office has “knowledge that ISIS transferred many of the Yezidis to Raqqa from Mosul before the operation was launched.” He added that, “there are many others still left in Mosul.” 

The US special envoy for the war against ISIS, Brett McGurk, said in a press briefing earlier this month that, “We think most of the Yezidi slaves who were taken by Daesh (ISIS) two years ago, the vast majority of them, are in Mosul.” Kori also said there were plans to rescue other Yezidis still in ISIS captivity, but did not wish to provide details. 

“We have good plans to look for the whereabouts of the remaining Yezidis in Mosul after the city is liberated,” he said. An estimated 6,000 Yezidis -- including men, women and children -- fell to ISIS as soon as the group overran the predominantly Yezidi city of Shingal back in August 2014. Many Yezidis who survived the brutalities meted out by ISIS and who now live in exile have been waiting for the liberation of Mosul and Raqqa in Syria to learn about other loved ones still held captive. 

Khudeda Khairi, who had 70 members of his family taken hostage by ISIS in Shingal, said 40 of them were freed. But the rest, including his mother and three brothers, are still missing and held by the militants. “Up to eight months ago I was in touch with my family by telephone. They were in Tal Afar (western Mosul). But since then they were transferred to Mosul and I have no information about them,” Khairi told Rudaw. 

“I have my eyes glued to the TV news day and night, waiting to see Mosul liberated. I want to know the fate of my other relatives,” he said, adding he feared for their lives. The number of Yezidi women and girls who have not escaped or been freed from ISIS is 3,735, Khairi Bozani, head of Yezidi affairs in the Kurdistan Regional Government’s religious affairs ministry, told Rudaw in September. 

According to unofficial numbers, more than 2,500 Yezidis who were taken captive have been freed from the militants, some through ransoms and many others who risked their lives to make harrowing escapes. Many were killed by ISIS minefields or by the group's snipers. Koru said that his office was in contact with many Yezidis still trapped under ISIS rule. 

“ISIS still holds 3,600 Yezidis in its controlled territories and we are in touch with many of them,” he said. The Mosul Eye, a blogger in Mosul and one of the few sources of information inside the city, estimated to Rudaw English earlier this month that there are more than 100 Yezidi girls and women being held captive in Mosul. 

He is aware of three houses where Yezidi women and girls are being held captive, some living as wives of Islamic State fighters. Others are being held as prisoners in hospitals in the city, many in Al-Jumhuri and Ibn Sina hospitals, he reported, saying the women and girls are “not in good health.” Peshmerga and Iraqi forces began an offensive eight days ago to liberate Mosul, which fell to the militants in June 2014.
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