Hala Safil escaped ISIS three years ago, but she still lives with the bitter memories of her captivity, and doesn’t know the fate of the parents and three bothers.
Hala is not only one, most Yazidis have a one or more missing relative.
“True, I have escaped the hell of ISIS, but I live in pain day and night. It’s been years, and I still await the return of my parents and my brothers,” Hala told KirkukNow.
Hala was saved from ISIS in July 2017 and now lives at Bersiv camp in Duhik.
“What we say and our cries are fruitless; the whole world knows what happened to the Yazidis, yet nobody does something. After six years, nothing has been done to save the Yazidis.”
Nobody supports us, we only have God. We await God’s mercy to help us reunite with our loved ones
Hala said in desperation: “Nobody supports us, we only have God. We await God’s mercy to help us reunite with our loved ones.”
On 3 August 2014, ISIS assaulted Shingal district, the ancestral homeland of the Yazidis, where they committed massacres and kidnapped at least 6,417, many of whom were women and children.
According to KRG’s Yazidi Rescue Office, of a total of 3,530 kidnapped individuals one thousand women and two thousand children have been rescued from, or have escaped, ISIS. The fate of 2,887 individuals is still unknown.
Layla and Pakiza Jalal, to Yazidi sisters, talk about their 12 missing relatives
Hussein Qaidi, the chairman of the office, told KirkukNow: “We’ve been working non-stop for six years for the sake of the kidnapped Yazidis, and we will continue as long as even one person still remained in the hands of ISIS.”
He says the COVID-19 outbreak has affected their work, as many of the rescued Yazidis reside in different provinces of Iraq and due to travel restrictions, locating and getting them back to their families is not easy.
There are travel restrictions between Iraq’s provinces since March as a measure to halt the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Once things go back to normal and the curfews are lifted, we will work according to a new plan to rescue the Yazidis. There is no tardiness in our work,” said Qaidi.
Our only demand is for all the Yazidi girls and women to be rescued
Samia Qasim, a Yazidi activist who resides at Cham-Mishko camp in Duhok, told KirkukNow: “Our only demand is for all the Yazidi girls and women to be rescued, but unfortunately apparently the honour of the Yazidis is not important for the Iraqi government, because they are not serious about the attempts to rescue the kidnapped.”
“To this day ISIS still trades with our women and girls. In exchange for releasing one kidnapped individual, they demand extremely high amounts of money. The relative of the kidnaped don’t have money, that’s why many of them are not rescued,” added Samia.
KRG’s Yazidi Rescue Office has paid ransoms to rescue some of the Yazidis from ISIS.
Dawud Murad, spokesperson for the Committee for Yazidi Victim’s Relatives, told KirkukNow: “Some of those who haven’t been rescued are killed, especially the men. And those who are still alive are mostly women and children. According to our investigations, most of them are held in Turkey and Syria.”
Without exceptions, we have all been neglectful regarding the kidnapped Yazidis
“Without exceptions, we have all been neglectful regarding the kidnapped Yazidis.”
According to KRG’s Yazidi Rescue Office, 80 mass graves containing remains of Yazidis killed by ISIS have been found.
Murad added that many times the government and NGOs have been requested to rescue the kidnapped Yazidis, but to no avails. He asks: “Why is it that when someone is missing, they are found within hours, yet the government can’t rescue thousands of kidnapped Yazidis.”
According to KRG numbers, before the genocide there were 550,000 Yazidis in Iraq. 360 of them have been displaced and 100,000 have become refugees.
Jawhar Ali, Yazidi Mir’s deputy PR person, told KirkukNow: “One of our main tasks is to try rescuing all the kidnapped Yazidis. We are in constant communication with KRG, the Iraqi government and NGOs.”
On top of living with the trauma and other consequences of the genocide, Yazidis have to live with the constant thoughts about their missing loved ones, while being residing at inadequate camps and unable to return home due to the destruction caused by the war.
According to KRG numbers from February 2020, there are more than 787,000 displaced individuals residing in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. 30% of them are Yazidis.