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    Kurdish Yezidi Girl Who Escaped IS, Flees Germany After Meeting Her Abuser There

    The story of Ashwaq, a young Kurdish Yezidi girl who was kidnapped alongside thousands of others by the Islamic State (IS), is heartbreaking as much as it is unique. It might be a story that many people could not believe, but, yet, it is a true story whose hero is still alive to tell the world about the ordeal. 
    I sat with her for hours to carefully listen to what she has gone through. She was speaking in Kurdish, but she also speaks Arabic, which she learned during months of IS captivity. It might come as a surprise that she also speaks German. However, Ashwaq told me that she doesn’t want to ever speak in Arabic, she doesn’t even like to hear the language. 
    The Yezidi girl was abducted by the IS militants when she was only 15. After over ten months, Ashwaq managed to escape the insurgents and the faith they forcefully wanted to impose on her. After her escape, she reunited with some of her family members in Kurdistan Region. Later, as part of a humanitarian program, she, alongside her mother and brother, migrated to Germany and settled in a refugee camp in Stuttgart. 
    Up to this point, is a story similar to many others. But what makes Ashwaq’s story unique is that after three years living in Stuttgart, she meets Abu Humam, the IS militant who had bought Ashwaq in Iraq’s Mosul for $100, and subjected her to constant inhuman abuses. Abu Humam, at the time of meeting Ashwaq in Germany, appears to have no fear and no regrets. He starts again harassing Ashwaq, which forces the Yezidi victim to escape Germany and return to Kurdistan. 
    Haji Hamid Ta’lo, 53, appears to me as such a strong man who could defeat all the injustice. I doubt if there is any other man that could go through and survive so much ordeals. 
    During my interview, he was smoking nonstop. I sometimes could barely see his face which was showing a man much older than his real age. He has dealt with so much pressure in the past few years that he looks older than a 53-year-old man. Nothing better could be expected from a man whose five sons and one daughter are still in the hands of IS jihadists. He has also lost four of his siblings, together with their families. 
    The day IS attacked
    Before the IS militants attacked Sinjar region on 3rd August 2014, Ashwaq was living with her family in Khanasore subdistrict of Sinjar. They were a large family who were happy together. 
    “The day Daesh [IS] attacked we were informed that Snune [a nearby subdistrict] had already fallen into IS hands, but we couldn’t escape Khanasore because other routes were also blocked. At the beginning there were only a few IS militants with their vehicles, but, very soon, the Muslim Arabs who were living in the nearby villages joined them with their guns in hand,” Ashwaq’s father said. 
    He explained that before IS attacked, the Yezidis were living in the area peacefully with the Muslims, but, all of a sudden, everything changed. 
    “The militants who attacked our home were under the command of a man known as ‘Nashmi Asali’. He was the nephew of the chief in the nearby Hasawek village. We were 77 people from our family when we were caught. They asked us to convert to Islam immediately; but I told them that we cannot do that before talking to our religious leaders.”
    Ashwaq’s father pointed out that Asali had asked him to talk to other Yezidis who had already fled to Mount Sinjar to return and they will be safe. The militants want them to gather in Ashwaq’s home and hold a large meeting between Yezidis and attacking the IS militants. 
    “When Asali and his men left we decided to escape, but it was not possible because other Muslim Arabs in the area reported our plan to the militants. They immediately arrived, singled out 66 people from our family and drove them to Syria. It was only me, my sister, her husband, three of their children who were all disabled, and my uncle’s family left.”
    They stayed under home arrest for 45 days, but could not risk more than that as they fled after midnight to Mount Sinjar. “Only God knows how we carried the elderlies and the three disabled children through all those dangers in darkness,” Ashwaq’s father said in a soft tone. 
    Up to the moment, five brothers of Ashwaq are missing and her sister is still in IS captivity. Dozens of other family members, including uncles and aunts, are still suffering at the hand of IS. Some others were either rescued or bought back from IS. 
    Shwaq was born in 1999. She was only 15 years old when IS kidnapped her. They first drove her and other family members to Shaddadiya subdistrict in Syria. Ashwaq said they were put in a three-store building under watchful eyes of the IS militants. “The men were being kept in the first floor, the women and children in the second, and the third floor was apparently Daesh’s butchery,” she said. 
    “Right from the moment we arrived there, they took our belongings away. The took all our jewelry, money, cell phones, and personal documents. We were only given dirty water and stinky food.”
    Ashwaq revealed that the second day after their arrival, in the evening, all the Yezidi captives were gathered outside the building and asked to convert to Islam. Ashwaq’s uncle agrees to convert provided that the IS militants would not hurt the women and children.
    “So they brought sweets and started celebrating our conversion.”
    The insurgent later put all the Yezidis in three buses. Men in one, old women and children in another, and young girls singled out onto the last bus. They drove them towards Sinjar, but the bus for the young girls stopped in Mosul and left all the girls in a hotel. 
    “One day, a Daesh militant called Abu Mohammed who came to use and took 18 girls, including me. We were moved to a large room with many men. One of them took his wallet out and paid some money to Abu Mohammed. We realised that he had just bought four of my sisters and one cousin. We were crying our hearts out, but for no vein. Later we learned that the same process was ongoing in the other rooms as well, and it was only us who had no right to make any decision.”
    Ashwaq, one of her sisters, and ten other Yezidi girls were then remaining in the room. A while passed and the IS militants gathered about 100 girls from the hotel, moved them to Baaj district near the Syrian border in west of Mosul. “Another IS militant received us there and put all together in a building. His name was Abu Hilal. We were given new clothes and ordered to take a bath and change.”
    Ashwaq said there was a Yezidi girl with them whose name was Jeilan. She was a college student of medicine who farewelled her sister before going to the bath, saying that she cannot accept IS militants even touching here.
    “Soon there was her cold body laying on the floor of the bathroom. She had cut her hand. We were all crying and screaming when two men came and took her body away,” she added. 
    Everyday, according to Ashwaq, some girls were being taken away after the militants could find them buyers. Soon there was only Ashwaq and four other girls remaining in a school which the insurgents were using as a prison. Four men (Abu Humam Shar’i, Abu Hilal, Abu Anas, and Abu Asim), who were serving as the prison guards, bought the girls and moved them to their homes in Ramboose village. Ashwaq was taken by Abu Humam, forced to convert to Islam, pray everyday five times and memorise Quran in Arabic. “I did all that because he promised not to hurt me; but he abused me for more than 10 months every single day.”
    A few months later when Abu Hilal was killed during a fight, the other four girls were given to Abu Anas. Ashwaq said she had managed to gain Abu Humam’s trust as he was sometimes leaving his belongings, including his cell phone, at home. “One day I talked to the other four girls and told them that we need to escape. I found Abu Humam’s cell phone at home and called my brother. He taught us a plan. The next day we all started scratching our hands and body, then we told Abu Humam and Abu Anas that the wounds are for some kind of skin allergy and we need to visit the doctor. He agreed and took us to a hospital, left us there and said he would pick us up later. We were given some kind of pills which my brother had said they will make the militants fall asleep if we put large dozes in their food,” Ashwaq recalled. 
    “The next day Abu Humam said his guests were visiting and we had to prepare food. I seized the opportunity to put all the pills in the food.”
    Ashwaq and the other four girls managed to put 17 men into sound asleep, lock the doors and escape the ordeal in the darkness of the night. They walked about 14 hours to finally reach Mount Sinjar where thousands of Yezidis had already found safety. 
    Meeting Abu Humam again, this time in Germany
    After her escape, Ashwaq reunited with some members of her family. She, together with her mother and two of her brothers, moved to Germany in June 2015 as part of a humanitarian program. She soon starts learning German language, and starts school. The program provides her with medical care to heal from her psychological traumas from IS captivity. 
    “A day in 2016, I was going back home from school when I felt a man was following me. I did not look at his face carefully, but I was scared. He followed me until I entered the refugee camp. I immediately told my mother, but she ensured me that everything will be fine. She said: this is Germany and no one could ever hurt you,” Ashwaq remembered. 
    The Yezidi girl continued her normal life until early 2018 when she was stopped by a man on her way back home. “Someone stopped me, on 21st February this year.  I froze when I looked at his face carefully. It was Abu Humam, with the same scaring beard and ugly face. I was speechless when he started speaking in German, asking ‘You’re Ashwaq, aren’t you?”
    Ashwaq replayed “No”.
    “Yes, you are Ashwaq and you know me very well. I am Abu Humam and you were with me for a while in Mosul. And I know where you live, with whom you live, and what you are doing,” Ashwaq narrated Abu Humam in Germany. 
    Ashwaq ran away and entered a nearby market, watching her abuser until she was certain that Abu Humam had already left. She went back home and told her brother about what she had seen. The next day she went to the camp manager and the police was informed. After some time of questioning, the police checked the market’s CCTV and identified the man in the footage. 
    “The police told me that he is also a refugee, just like me, and that they could not do anything about it. They just gave me a phone number that I could contact in case Abu Humam ever stopped me. After this response, I decided to return to Kurdistan and never go back to Germany,” Ashwaq said. 
    A few questions for the Germans 
    Ashwaq’s story is a heartbreaking one with a fearful ending that leads us to many questions. I am a journalist who is very well aware of the military and humanitarian aid the German government has so far offered the Kurdistan Region and its people. Germany has proven its friendly ties with the Kurdistan Region during the past four years of the war against IS, and the Kurds are all grateful for that. I am also a keen fan of German football team, but I cannot leave the following questions without finding them an answer: are the laws related to human rights in Germany beyond logic that they restrict you from persecuting a barbaric terrorist of the Islamic State? Aren’t you worried about the Abu Humams who have disguised themaselves as refugees to pose a serious threat to your country once they find the chance? What the Yezidi girls should do when the IS terrorists target them, no matter if they are in Mosul or in Germany? 
    I wish, at least, the German Consulate in Erbil could follow this story up and find an answer to those questions.

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