After nine years in captivity, Rojîn Hedad, a 17-year-old Yazidi from Sinjar (Shengal), has returned home. Hedad was the victim of an abduction by Islamic State (ISIS) militants during their attacks on the Yazidi community in 2014.
Hedad’s ordeal began when ISIS forces targeted the Yazidi population, an ethno-religious minority in the Middle East, in Sinjar, the Yazidi homeland in northern Iraq, resulting in the abduction of thousands. The horrors of that day left an indelible mark on the Yazidi community, with many still unaccounted for despite subsequent efforts to liberate them.
The devastating 2014 attacks on Sinjar, an area outside the Kurdistan Region and part of Iraq’s disputed territories, resulted in significant displacement of Yazidis and left the region in ruins. Thousands were subjected to mass atrocities, and many women and children were abducted and sold into slavery.
The turning point for Hedad came on 26 November, when security forces from the Jazeera Canton, affiliated with the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, successfully liberated him near Idlib. This operation marked the end of his nine-year captivity and paved the way for his return to Sinjar.
Hedad was warmly welcomed by the Sinjar Autonomous Administration and his ecstatic family. The emotional reunion is a beacon of hope for the countless families who continue to await the return of their loved ones.
The liberation of Rojîn is part of an ongoing effort by Kurdish forces, including the People’s Defence Units (YPG) and the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ), to free Yazidi captives and reclaim territory seized by ISIS. While many Yazidis have been rescued, a significant number remain unaccounted for.