The Women in the World Summit gave Yazidis a chance to tell their stories.
Friday, April 7, concluded the 2017 Women in the World Summit.
One speaker was Shirin Jirdo Ibrahim, a Yazidi survivor of Islamic State sex slavery.
The Yazidis are a religious minority located mostly in Iraqi Kurdistan. Many of them have historically lived on a mountain called Sinjar (pronounced Shangal by Yazidis). On August 3, 2014, IS took over Mount Sinjar, murdered and enslaved an estimated 10,000 Yazidis. Today, over 3,000 Yazidi women and girls are still held as sex slaves for IS.
Many people around the world are aware of IS’s atrocities towards Yazidi women, however some of the stories heard at the summit sent an audible gasp through the audience.
Ibrahim recalled being captured as she and her family tried to flee. Militants took her to a building in Sinjar where she was separated from her family. She was bought and sold as a sex slave between four different men, five times. One of them helped her to escape. To this day, 20 of Ibrahim’s family members are still in captivity, their whereabouts unknown.
Ibrahim’s translator, Yazidi activist Feryal Pirali, recounted the experience of a friend who, while heavily pregnant, had IS militants slice open her stomach, and rape both her and her baby. She survived, though her baby did not.
Few Yazidi women who have survived IS captivity have spoken about their experiences to the international community. The most prominent woman has been Nadia Murad, who has demanded that the United Nations investigate IS crimes and put IS members on trial in international criminal court. In 2015, the UN, European Union, and other international organisations urged the Iraqi government to join the International Criminal Court so that they could prosecute IS. To this day, neither Iraq nor any other country has prosecuted a single IS member. In March, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney called on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to send a letter to the UN Security Council to set up an investigation of IS crimes as Iraqi and coalition forces take back territories that IS captured. Clooney worries that if evidence of crimes, such as mass graves, are not protected, IS members will evade justice.
Shireen Ibrahim’s presence at the Women in the World Summit, and the presence of her translator Feryal Pirali, shined a light on the plight of Yazidi women and reminded the international community of the atrocities committed by the Islamic State.
Tara is a journalist and campaigner based in San Francisco, US