Iraq News
Human Rights

Peshmerga liberate 36 Yazidis captured by ISIS

By Khalid al-Taie

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In an April 30th operation in northern Iraq, Peshmerga forces freed 36 Yazidis from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria'. [Photo from the Facebook page of Hussein Qaidi]

Peshmerga forces recently succeeded in tracking down and liberating 36 Yazidis kidnapped from Sinjar who had been detained by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in northern Iraq for almost three years.

The majority of those freed in the April 30th operation were children.

Through its own sources, the Kurdish regional government's Office of Kidnapped Affairs in Dohuk was able to determine where the three dozen detainees had been hidden, office director Hussein Qaidi told Diyaruna.

The five men, five women and 26 children were freed in co-ordination with the Iraqi security authorities, he said, without providing details of the operation.

"We do not want to give details to protect the lives of the other abductees and so we can free them and return them to their families," he explained.

On April 21st, the Iraqi Federal Police freed an 11-year-old Yazidi girl, Farah Dakheel, from ISIS as they advanced in Mosul's al-Tanak district.

Rescuing remaining prisoners

ISIS captured thousands of Yazidis when its fighters overran Sinjar in July 2014. After the area was liberated in late 2015, Peshmerga forces freed hundreds.

But ISIS is still holding about 3,400 Yazidis prisoner -- many of them children and women -- in areas under its control, Qaidi said.

"We have information about other detainees and we know where they are," he said. "In the near future, we will get them out of the hands of the terrorists."

"When we freed the [36 detainees], they were in a very bad state, psychologically and physically," he said. "Their lives were harsh; the terrorists treated them as slaves and subjected them to various kinds of torture and persecution."

"As soon as we rescued them, we provided them with medical care and food, in co-operation with international organisations," he added. "We also provided them with shelter and they are currently in a good condition."

Some did not survive

Iraqi authorities have so far discovered about 30 mass graves in Ninawa province that included hundreds of Yazidi victims executed by ISIS fighters.

The level of violence perpetrated against the minority group makes it imperative to help all Yazidi survivors of ISIS's tyranny, said Hussein Qasim Hassoun, adviser to the head of the Kurdish regional government.

Survivors will require help and rehabilitation to heal from the psychological trauma inflicted on them by ISIS and to reintegrate into society, he said, with government agencies and the international community working together on this.

"Many have been victims of physical violence, rape," he said, while others were forced to denounce their religion and convert.

Abductees return to Sinjar

The Yazidi abductees were liberated in an operation carried out in the district of Baaj west of Mosul, which is under ISIS control, Ninawa provincial council member Seydou Hussein al-Tattani told Diyaruna.

"The kidnapped are all residents of Sinjar, and immediately after their liberation they were taken to their hometown and provided with necessary care," he said.

Ninawa's local government supports all efforts to free the Yazidis and all others who remain prisoners of ISIS, he added.

"We call upon the national authorities to take great interest in this issue," al-Tattani said. "We hope that everyone will help bring these prisoners back to their families and loved ones and put an end to their bitter and long suffering."

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