Yazidi woman held by IS for 10 years freed by Kurdish fighters in Syria

US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria have liberated a Yazidi woman who had been held for a decade by Islamic State (IS), where she was raped and forced to marry extremists.

The 24-year-old woman was rescued with her son and daughter during a security operation by Kurdish fighters in Syria’s al-Hawl camp, which houses tens of thousands of people, mostly the wives and children of Islamic State fighters, the Syrian Democratic Forces said on Monday.

The SDF said the Women’s Protection Units, or YPJ, liberated the Yazidi woman on Sunday saying that she is originally from Hardan village in Iraq’s Yazidi heartland of Sinjar. The statement said the woman was abducted by IS fighters during the 2014 massacres committed by the extremists during which they killed thousands of men and took many women and teenage girls who were held as sex slaves.

The woman said in a video released by the YPJ that she was staying with a family before being taken to the camp and was told not to reveal her identity or say that she is Yazidi. The woman said she used a fake name during her stay at al-Hawl until she was liberated.

“They destroyed my life. I was sold and bought like a sheep,” the woman said about the time she spent before being brought to al-Hawl in 2019. She added that at one point she was with six other women in the house of an older man called Abu Jaafar who used to beat her up if she rejected him.

“The women who resisted rape used to be killed,” she said.

The heavily guarded al-Hawl camp, overseen by Syrian Kurdish-led forces allied with the United States, was once home to 73,000 people, the vast majority of them Syrians and Iraqis. The number of people dropped over the years as many women and children were repatriated from al-Hawl.

Al-Hawl houses mostly Iraqis and Syrians but there are also citizens of about 60 other nationalities. The Iraqis and Syrians are held in one section.

Those of non-Syrian or Iraqi nationalities live in a part of the camp known as the Annex, considered the home of the most diehard IS supporters. Many of them had travelled thousands of miles to join the extremist group after IS swept across the region in 2014.

Over the past years several security operations have been carried out during which women captured as slaves were released and extremists detained.

The SDF said that during the first day of the operations alone, 21 IS “operatives were captured and terrorist materials seized”. It added that explosives, booby-traps and tunnels were uncovered.

The Guardian