A Yazidi family rescued their 25 year old relative and her 8 year old daughter from a man in the Turkish capital Ankara who is reported to be related to the ex-leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) Abubakr al Baghdadi.
According to a report by Hale Gönültaş, a journalist who has followed the rescue efforts for many Yazidi women, the family paid €12,000 in ransom to the man who used the alias Omer.
Omer held the woman and her daughter in Şentepe, a slum neighbourhood in Ankara’s outskirts. The pair had been held there since 2020, and were smuggled into Turkey from Aleppo via Hatay in 2019.
The woman, whose alias is Delal, was a new bride when ISIS attacked the Yazidi homeland Sinjar in 2014. She was taken as a hostage, and witnessed her husband of only two months’ death as she and other women were taken away in a pick-up truck. She was sold to several ISIS members in Iraq and later in Syria.
Delal realised she was pregnant weeks later. She was not sure whether the baby was her late husband’s, or was conceived in the countless assaults she suffered after her capture. She gave birth in Deir ez Zor, in the home of the most recent ISIS member who purchased her as a slave.
This ISIS member was killed in combat when the baby was three months old. His family sold Delal and her baby daughter to a Saudi national ISIS member, who then sold her to an Iraqi ISIS member with two wives and nine children a week later.
Delal was forced to convert to Islam, threatened with her baby being taken away. She accepted, disavowing her people’s ancient faith, and donned the black chador. The baby was also made to wear a hijab.
When Delal confided in one of the teenage girls in the house about her doubts about who the father of the baby was, she was assaulted by her ISIS captor and his brother. From that night onwards, she was made to live in the woodshed, until she was taken to Turkey.
Interlocutors who facilitated Delal’s transfer out of Omer’s hands told the authorities that Omer was in fact a close relative of Abubakr al Baghdadi, the former leader of ISIS who detonated a suicide vest he was wearing, killing him and two children, during a US operation in Idlib, Syria in 2019. The sources said Omer was present at the founding of ISIS and was close to Baghdadi.
The ISIS member registered himself with the Turkish authorities as a Syrian refugee in the central Anatolian Kırşehir province, where they stayed for a while before heading to Ankara. He was actively looking for Delal’s relatives, and was finally able to contact her brother in Canada.
The brother sought help from a group of Jewish businessmen in the United States and Canada who raised money for the rescue of Yazidi women and girls. Some 10,000 Yazidi were killed in ISIS attacks, and more than 7,000 Yazidi women were sold into sex slavery, according to UN estimates.
Omer demanded €12,000 in ransom, and was paid in cryptocurrency. Interlocutors took the pair from the home they were locked up in and brought them to a safe location. The rescue happened last week, and after waiting for a while to ensure safety, the mother and daughter were taken out of Turkey to be reunited with their family.
ISIS members have been known to be holding women captive in several Ankara neighbourhoods. According to Yazidi lawyer Nadia Avrauzov, there are at least 2,800 women still unaccounted for. “Some of them are held in chains in dungeons in Turkey. The Turkish authorities do not offer any help whatsoever,” she told reporters in a conference in April.
In May, Turkey’s Court of Cassation overturned an acquittal verdict on a trafficking case against six ISIS members. More than 1,700 pages of sales slips and some $400,000 in cash were confiscated as part of the case, which will now go to retrial with the court ordered to conduct a more thorough procedure.