Soon after its bloody rise, Daesh began kidnapping Yazidi women, forcing them into marriage to conceive a new generation of fighters in the terrorist organization. These children became a threat despite that they are originally victims.
The Washington Post quoted testimonies from Syria, which spoke of the crisis facing Yazidi children, whether who were raised by Daesh women or those who were kidnapped by the organization and raised among a community.
Two Yazidi girls, 14 and 11, were said to be living in a tent with a woman loyal to Daesh in the al-Hol camp in eastern Syria, where tens of thousands of Daesh family members are being detained, said Mahmoud Rasho, the Yazidi leader.
A few days later, he headed to al-Hol, gathered a group of Kurdish security guards and went to the tent to rescue the girls. They didn’t want to be rescued.
The girls sobbed and screamed and clung to the woman, insisting she was their mother. The woman sobbed, too, wailing that the girls were her daughters and hugging them in her arms. The Kurdish security forces physically separated them and put the girls into a van for the first leg of their journey back to their real families, in the Sinjar region of Iraq.
Accounts of the wrenching scene, given by both Rasho and the girls, point to a new challenge confronting members of the Yazidi community as they try to trace nearly 3,000 Yazidis who remain unaccounted for after the territorial defeat of the militants. Perhaps hundreds of them are children, who are still being hidden by Daesh families in camps or homes, Rasho said.
Snatched from their families at a young and vulnerable age, these children now must undergo the trauma of new separations and new adjustments, after spending some of the most formative years of their lives with the militants. The children were given new names, new families and a new faith. Many forgot their native Kurdish language and now speak only Arabic.
They barely remember the circumstances of their earlier lives, and many have embraced the ultra-extremist form of Islam at the heart of the Daesh’s ideology.
Altogether, over 6,200 Yazidis, an ancient minority viewed as infidels by Daesh, went missing when the militants swept through their ancestral homeland in the Sinjar mountains of northern Iraq in 2014.
There is no official Iraqi record of the Yazidi women’s children who were born after the year 2014. According to the authorities in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, 6417 Yazidi women were kidnapped, 3425 of them survived and returned, while the fate of the others is still unknown.
Many Yazidi men were simply murdered on the spot. The women were taken to be sold as sex slaves, and most of them have returned home, either after their families paid ransom or they escaped. They have brought with them harrowing tales of the conditions they endured in captivity.
In an interview at Rasho’s home, where she was staying ahead of her return to Iraq, the older of the two girls described the misery they felt when they were separated from the woman they had come to regard as their mother.
“I love her more than my own mother,” said the girl. “She treated me better than my original mother. My mother and father divorced and they didn’t care about me. She really cared for me, as if I were her own daughter.”
A 15-year-old boy who was recruited into Daesh’s “Caliphate Cubs” army for children said he was sure he would not change his mind. Alone among the four children, he volunteered in late May to be rescued, after spending three months in jail with captured Daesh fighters.
“I never cried when I left my mother in Sinjar, but I cried when I left my friends,” he said.
One of the hardest adjustments, he said, has been seeing women with their hair and faces uncovered. It is an adjustment he doesn’t think he will be able to make when he returns to the more liberal Yazidi community in Iraq.
“Maybe there’s a lot of things I won’t like,” he said. “The women where I am going don’t cover their hair. It will be very hard for me if someone comes to my house and sees my mother and my sister not covered. Or if I go to my uncle’s house and see the faces of his daughters. I can’t force them to do something they don’t want. But when I get married I will not allow anyone to see the face of my wife.”