Yazidi woman reunited with family in Duhok after abduction by Islamic State
Photograph by Mohammed Bamarni

Yazidi women reunite with families after abduction by Islamic State

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Six Yazidi women, now mostly in their early 20s, experienced an emotional reunion with their families on Wednesday, almost nine years after being abducted by the Islamic State (IS) jihadists. This return marks a poignant end to their traumatic separation, triggering celebrations and music in a park in Dohuk, Kurdistan Region.

Nadia Murad, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Yazidi activist, had previously announced their rescue on Saturday. The fate of these women illuminates the horrific abuses suffered by Yazidis during the extremists’ rule in Sinjar province, the Yazidis’ traditional home, between 2014-15. The minority group’s pre-Islamic religion provoked the wrath of the IS extremists, resulting in forced marriages, sex slavery for women and girls, and the massacre of thousands of men.

“I am very happy to be reunited with my family,” expressed one of the returned women, whose name remains undisclosed due to safety concerns. The 22-year-old added, “I hadn’t seen them for nine years. I didn’t expect that to happen,” choosing not to elaborate on her ordeal during captivity.

According to Khairi Bouzani from Kurdistan’s Kidnapped Yazidi Rescue Office, which manages cases of missing Yazidis, the women were initially transported to Turkey after their liberation before making their journey to Iraqi Kurdistan. 

Murad, who herself was a victim of IS atrocities, said on the website of her association, Nadia’s Initiative, “The women were still children and teenagers when they were first taken captive in 2014” by the jihadists. While the specifics of their release remain undisclosed, she acknowledged the crucial roles played by Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey.

The IS jihadists kidnapped 6,417 Yazidis from Sinjar, with 3,658 of them having been rescued so far in Iraq, Syria, and neighboring Turkey, according to Hussein Qaidi, director of the Kurdish rescue office.

The security situation in Sinjar still prevents many Yazidis from returning, even nearly six years after Iraq declared its “victory” over IS. Thousands of Yazidis continue to live in uncertain conditions in displaced persons camps, a sobering reminder of the long road to recovery that lies ahead.