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Security |

In Mosul, search for abducted Yazidi women faces challenges

By Khalid al-Taie

The Iraqi army on July 8th freed Wiam Haji Hamid, a Yazidi woman who had been held hostage by the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' in the Makawi neighbourhood of Mosul's Old City. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

Ninawa province's local government is co-ordinating with Iraqi forces to locate Yazidi women in Mosul who were kidnapped by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) following the group's invasion of Sinjar in August 2014.

Iraqi forces freed a number of kidnapped women during and after the battle for Mosul, but according to local Yazidi officials, the number is "much lower" than expected and they fear others remain in the group's custody.

"Before the liberation offensive began, we had information that there was a large group of kidnapped Yazidi women who had been abducted and sold in Mosul," said Ninawa provincial council member Barakat Shammu.

"We only found about 30 women with a number of children, which is much fewer than what had been expected and indicated by our sources," he told Diyaruna.

Recent figures from the Office for Yazidi Abductee Affairs indicate ISIS kidnapped around 6,400 Yazidis, mostly women and children, from Sinjar.

So far just 3,070 -- roughly half of the total -- have been located or freed from the group.

Committee to search for Yazidi women

"The council set up in mid-July a special committee in charge of searching for Yazidi women in Mosul in co-ordination with various security services," Shammu said.

"We suspect there could be kidnapped women in residential neighbourhoods in Mosul or among the displaced population who had escaped before the fighting ended," he said, adding that they might be "afraid to expose themselves".

It is even possible that ISIS elements smuggled most of the kidnapped women out of Mosul shortly before the fighting began, he added.

"The committee has started working," he said. "There are meetings, joint efforts are being made, and we are bound to eventually achieve results."

Official representatives of Ninawa’s Yazidis, himself included, have held many meetings with government officials that have focused on the need to do everything possible to free all abductees, Shammu said.

This includes securing commitments and funds to assist female survivors of ISIS and provide them adequate care, he added.

"The committee will make field trips to camps for displaced families from Mosul to look for kidnapped Yazidi women, in co-operation with the security forces," said Iraqi MP for Ninawa province Haji Kandour al-Sheikh.

Committee members will work to open channels of communication with local residents and urge them to provide any information they might have on the fate of the abducted women, he told Diyaruna.

Fears for the fate of missing women

According to two Yazidi girls the army found last week in Mosul's al-Mushahada neighbourhood, "ISIS elements in the last days of the fighting executed 10 kidnapped Yazidi women", al-Sheikh said.

The girls conveyed this information during a meeting with Yazidi officials and soldiers from the army’s 9th Division, which is currently searching for the bodies of the slain women in the Old City.

News of the alleged killings has raised concerns that other abductees might have been assassinated, al-Sheikh said, although it is possible that "many of those women might be in areas that are still in ISIS’s hands".

"The information available to us indicates there are large numbers of kidnapped Yazidi men and women in the towns of Tal Afar and al-Baaj and the Syrian city of al-Raqa," said Hussein Qaidi, head of the Office for Yazidi Abductee Affairs in Dohuk province.

"We were able this year to free dozens of those people, up to 200 abductees, in co-operation with security bodies and other, private ones," he told Diyaruna.

Qaidi called on government leaders to enhance their efforts to free the kidnapped to prevent ISIS from smuggling them out of the area or putting their lives at risk.

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