The all-female Syrian Kurdish militia, the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), has successfully freed Faryal Khader, a 21-year-old Yazidi girl who had been held captive by the Islamic State (ISIS) for years.
Faryal was only 12 years old when ISIS brutally attacked the town of Sinjar (Shengal) in Iraq in 2014, resulting in the capture and enslavement of many Yazidis.
During her time in captivity, Faryal was subjected to unimaginable horrors at the hands of the ISIS militants. She was separated from her family and taken to a large school in Tal Afar, where women and girls were segregated from men and boys. The fate of her family remains unknown.
Faryal vividly recalls being chosen as a personal slave by ISIS members and being transferred several times to different locations, including Mosul, Al-Shaddadah and Raqqa.
Raped, tortured and sold on several occasions, Faryal was held as a personal slave of an ISIS official until she was 15 years old. The intense suffering she endured left her traumatised, but Faryal remained vigilant and determined to escape the nightmare she was living. She said they were treated like commodities and “spoils of war”. Any girls and women who were brave enough to try to resist, to refuse to be taken, were tortured in public for all to see.
While Faryal was held as a slave, the YPJ eventually managed to get her to the Kurdish-led north and east of Syria. The YPJ’s announcement of her rescue last week was without mention of the exact location or date of the operation.
The young girl expressed her gratitude to the YPJ forces for rescuing her from the clutches of ISIS and giving her a chance to live a normal life free from oppression.
However, Faryal stressed the urgent need to continue efforts to free these innocent victims and bring them to safety, recalling that there are many more girls still held captive by ISIS.
ISIS attacks against Yazidis in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq began on 3 August 2014. ISIS overran the Yazidi lands, forced young women into sexual and domestic servitude for ISIS fighters, massacred thousands of people and drove the Yazidis out of the area.
The massacre began after the withdrawal of Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga, leaving the Yazidis defenceless.
ISIS was driven out of the area on 13 November 2015. Despite ongoing efforts to find them, thousands of Yazidis remain unaccounted for.