But do you know how to tie up the scarf? I don’t know how to do it, but let us try. He said, ‘Come on; hold your head up high. Why don’t you put your hair aside?’ We made our hair messy so that they would not like us. They looked at the house. They said ‘We will have sex with you.’ The next day we said to each other, ‘We have to save our honour. The only way out is suicide. We will commit suicide.’ I can’t do it, all my family members are captured by ISIS. If I… If I show my face they will hurt my family members. Do you ever think this could have been me? Yes, of course. I’m Yezidi, and if I had lived there then I would’ve definitely been one of these victims. These last couple of weeks we have had an incredible journey with this amazing young woman. We are in the North of Iraq, on a journey with Pari Ibrahim A young Dutch citizen who strives to provide aid to the Yezidi girls who have escaped as slaves of ISIS. We are on our way to the recently liberated Mount Sinjar. Is it save to go now? There is no danger from here to our destination. It is protected by Yezidi soldiers and the Peshmerga. The mountain was the safe haven, because if the people hadn’t come to the mountain, then they would have all been killed in the villages. They would have never made it out alive. We are driving on the roads of Mount Sinjar, near the border area of Syria and Iraq. The mountain of death and ruin. The mountain that last summer got the world’s attention… and showed us the true face of ISIS. Of course it is horrible what they have been through on that mountain, but thanks to this mountain, Mount Sinjar, the world acted and because of that many eyes have opened. 10,000 Yezidi civilians have been surrounded and trapped on Mount Sinjar because of ISIS until a few weeks ago, when Kurdish forces with support from the international coalition, including Dutch F16 fighting aircraft, managed to break through the ISIS stronghold ISIS managed to get into these stores when there were heavy clashes between Peshmerga and ISIS in the village of Rabia. ISIS was hiding in these stores and later they were bombed and that is why it looks like this. The situation here is… well, you can’t get out of the car, only the road is bomb free. There are landmines everywhere. If you get out of the car you risk your own life. Pari Ibrahim fled with her family from Iraq in the nineties. Her Yezidi religious belief was suppressed in Northern Iraq by the Saddam Hussein regime. Last summer it was ISIS who persecuted the Yezidis, who are not Muslim, in awful ways. Thousands of men are being killed in cold blood. The girls and women are taken as slaves to the ‘Islamic State’. Around 4000 to 6000 girls and women are still being held captive by ISIS. Some of them managed to escape. After the girls talked to Pari’s family they decided, despite their fear, sorrow and shame, to tell their story on television about the barbaric ways of ISIS. There were 150 girls from the village Kojo. We were put in 3 buses. They said where are the women and girls? The girls stay downstairs and the women can go upstairs to give their children some food. This way they could recognise the young virgins. The always came with four or five men. They picked out the girls to their satisfaction and took them away. We asked the guard what are they going to do with us? He swore by Allah that they would not kill us, but that they would have sex with us and beat us, and that we have to convert to Islam and that they would do the most horrible and unimaginable things to us. Hello, how are you?
Who are these people? These are journalists from the Netherlands.
Can I have their passports please? Where are you going?
To Sinjar. Ok, have a safe trip. Why are the roads closed like this? ISIS was in these Arab villages and after this area was liberated, we wanted to make sure that ISIS would not have an opportunity to enter this village again, so we blocked the road. This village was the base of ISIS between Syria and Iraq. For the first time after the liberation of the mountain, we got permission from the Yezidi commander to look at the situation on Mount Sinjar. Are we in danger?
At the moment this place is safe. This is our territory right now. We have everything under control. But we cannot be a 100 percent sure that they are gone. That is why I brought my unit with me to protect us today. They will be with us until we return safely to the safe Kurdistan area. On the mountain you can see a lot of IDPs, also a lot of elderly Yezidis who couldn’t escape because of the chaos and the panic. We fled from the bottom of the mountain up to the top. We didn’t know that it would be like this. They took all the women and girls and children. Many were killed, some died of thirst and hunger and some of fear. Don’t cry grandma, everything will be ok. Why shouldn’t I cry, I cry constantly, at some point my heart will give up because of the sorrow. We arrived at a place where ISIS recently has been driven out. They destroyed this store, because they say that alcohol is ‘haram’. But apparently stealing is allowed in Islam, and killing children is also allowed. But you can’t drink alcohol, because that’s no good. When they entered the room they told the men, ‘You can pick out whomever you want, because they are a bargain.’ They picked us out, and if you didn’t cooperate they would beat you severely and put you in handcuffs and drag you out of the room. Some girls were taken three times and they would be sold from one to another. Some of the girls were just 10 years old. You could hear them scream and cry when they were taken. They didn’t give us any food. Our situation there was unbearable. We were hoping that the American or any other aircrafts would bomb the building that we were in so that we would die. Heavy clashes are still taking place at the bottom of the mountain to liberate Sinjar. We are now at the top of the mountain. Many Yezidis have lived here for centuries. As far as your eyes can reach, is controlled by ISIS. So there are the heavy clashes? Yes, there, where you can see the smoke, they are fighting now. This was basically their last hope. They fled to the mountain and left everything behind. The mountain, Mount Sinjar, has saved many lives. Yes, it took many lives, but also, luckily…otherwise there would be no Yezidi living anymore. Yeah… it makes me sad, because you can feel what they’ve been through. It just hurts. This could’ve been prevented. There was a door… with 15 locks. We tried to break it open with axes, hammers and screwdrivers. It took us two hours until we finally managed to open the door. Someone brought us to Mosul. He wouldn’t give us back to our family for free. They had to pay him money. My brother said that he would get the money, even if he had to beg on the streets. Eventually [my brother] sent $8,700 for three of us, and the other [girls’ families had to pay] $3,000 each. After that we crossed the border with false papers. This is the holy place the Yezidi fighting resistance fought to protect on Mount Sinjar. A small area surrounded by ISIS. They wanted to destroy this holy place, so the Yezidi defence would be defeated. This is the place where the head commander and his men defend their holy ground until the very last seconds. When our brothers came to help us, we cried of happiness instead of laughing. A couple of weeks ago the Kurdish forces, with help of the international community, managed to open a safe corridor that leads to the mountain, the safe haven for tens of thousands of Yezidis. Since the drama of last summer, this mountain has been the symbol for the resistance against ISIS. We started with 18 fighters. Bit by bit we grew stronger and more Yezidis joined. If we hadn’t come up here to defend our people, ISIS would’ve captured and killed more than 30,000 Yezidis on top of this mountain. But thank God we didn’t lose our faith, we believed in our religion and our people. Meanwhile thousands of Yezidi slaves are still being held captive in the ‘Islamic State’. Some of them managed to escape. Smuggled with false papers or bought back by Arab men. When they’re back they end up in IDP camps in Northern Iraq. We are all orphans now. No one helped us. No one asked for us. No one came to us. No one said, ‘We are going to help you’. Not a single person came. We will help you. I will help you whatever it takes. Because there is no help at all for these women and girls that have escaped, Pari is starting, with the support of international post trauma specialists, to set up a post-trauma center in the refugee camps. Pari managed to get British expert Professor Derek Farrell to come and see if there are possibilities to open an EMDR post trauma centre for these women and girls. I brought an expert because… I don’t want people to say, “Oh, this is just one Yezidi girl who wants to help, but her plan will definitely be a failure”. So this was the place where ISIS wanted to come? Yes, it was all about this place. It was all about this place. Because? Because if they had captured this place, the Yezidis would have been broken. This road leads to the mountain, and then ISIS could have wiped out all the Yezidis. The goal of our journey, the holy place Sherfeddin. The place where every Yezidi comes to pray, put a knot in one of the cloths, and make a wish. Thank God my wish came true. We managed to defend this holy place against ISIS. Despite 23 attacks against us, we survived. My wish is that the Yezidis have a good life in the future and that everything will be all right. That they will forget these horrific things that happened to them. That they have a future. But also that all these girls come back and get the help they need, because they really need it. So that’s your biggest wish? Yes that is my biggest wish. I don’t want anything for myself; I want everything for them. I will help you whatever it takes..