World is failing former Yazidi sex slaves: Amnesty International
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By Emma Batha
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Yazidi women and girls who survived being held as sex slaves by Islamic State urgently need better care and support to recover from the horrific abuse they suffered in captivity, which has led some to attempt suicide, Amnesty International said on Monday.
Gang-raped, tortured, deprived of food and traded among militants during their imprisonment, they need counseling, medical treatment and financial help that they are not getting, it said.
Islamic State (IS) militants, who control a swathe of Iraq and Syria, have killed or enslaved thousands of Yazidis since overrunning the town of Sinjar in northern Iraq in August 2014.
Young girls were taken as sex slaves, while boys were trained as fighters.
One Yazidi woman, abducted with five of her children, said her 13-year-old daughter set herself on fire following her release and died three days later, according to Amnesty researchers who visited the Kurdish region of Iraq in August.
"She said she could not take it any more. She was in pain all the time, she cried all the time," her mother was quoted as saying in Amnesty's report.
The family had repeatedly asked for the daughter to get specialized therapy abroad, the mother said.
Other Yazidis said they suffered severe depression and some had considered or attempted suicide after their ordeals.
"These distressing testimonies highlight the urgent need for greater international support to help survivors cope with the long-lasting physical and psychological trauma of the abuse they have endured and witnessed," said Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty's Beirut office, in a statement.
"The international community must translate its shock and horror at IS crimes ... into concrete actions."
Survivors suffer further as they grieve for lost relatives, fear for loved ones still captive and live in destitution with impoverished families or in displacement camps, Amnesty said.
Some escaped, while others were released after families had paid ransoms and are struggling to pay debts of up to tens of thousands of dollars, it said.
One teenage girl, passed among fighters in Iraq and Syria, said she was raped and assaulted by her captors who also beat her three-month-old baby and at times starved them.
She still suffers physical and psychological wounds, Amnesty said.
Amnesty said a system should be set up to assess the needs of Yazidis when they emerge from captivity and funding should be provided for specialized support and treatment programs.
Existing services and humanitarian assistance provided by government organizations, charities and United Nations agencies are underfunded and vary in quality, it said.
Amnesty called on countries to follow the example of Germany which has accepted 1,080 Yazidis - survivors of sexual violence and their relatives.
They are receiving trauma therapy and will be allowed to rebuild their lives in Germany.
Thousands of Yazidi women and girls remain in captivity, officials and activists estimate.
United Nations investigators have said IS is committing genocide against the Yazidis, whose beliefs combine elements of several ancient Middle Eastern religions.
"It is like we are not human to them," said one 16-year-old girl who gave birth during nearly two years of captivity.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)
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