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ICC Note:

It is estimated that half of the Yazidis who were kidnapped by ISIS have still not been found. Yet some of them are hiding in plain sight, living in IDP camps with their captors or other families. Some suffer Stockholm syndrome, others think their community has been completely eradicated, and still others are unable to freely leave. Meanwhile their family members suffer heartache and depression as they wonder what became of their missing loved ones. The trauma caused by ISIS is felt across the entire Yazidi community, and much space for healing is needed as families recover and unite with missing relatives.  

 

11/21/2017 Iraq (DW) –   Almost half of the over 6,000 Yazidis kidnapped three years ago by the IS group have still not been found. Yet many of them are hidden in plain sight, aid workers and Yazidi activists say, living with Arab families who have sought refuge in Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps.

Forced to convert to Islam, they now fear for their lives if they are found, aid worker and Yazidi activist Mirza Dinaye says. He is calling for an active search and for the Yazidis to be returned to their families.

They are victims of the IS policy to eradicate the Yazidi faith, he says. “We know they are completely assimilated into the Muslim community. They think the Yazidi faith has been eradicated, and often suffer from Stockholm syndrome,”  — a special, often intimate relationship between victims and kidnappers.

That was the case for Mediha Ibrahim, 13, a Yazidi girl kidnapped by IS in August 2014, who spent the next three years living with the families of Turkish IS fighters in their stronghold of Talafar. During that time, they turned her into a Muslim.

“I forgot my Kurdish,” she admits in Turkish as she devours a pizza in a restaurant outside the camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq where she has recently been reunited with her uncles along with two of her brothers who were helped to escape. Her parents and another brother are still missing, but the latter has been identified in pictures posted on the Facebook account of an IS fighter. Just like Mediha, her brother has been taken into the fighter’s family and hidden away.

Mediha’s first Turkish owner in Talafar, Abu Yousef, had three wives and several children. “He beat me and sold me to another family,” she says. She stayed a bit longer with Abu Ali and his wife Fatima, who came from Bursa in Turkey, before they sold her to Abu Ahmed and Zahida from Konya. She was given a new name, Hadjar. By that time, she had taught herself Turkish and had been sent to school to learn Arabic. She prayed five times a day and enjoyed reading the Quran.

She was told she could never go back to her family and that it would be better to forget about them altogether. “I felt like a Muslim, not like a Yazidi. They said that my family would kill me if they found out I had left our faith.”

She believed them. Yazidis are a tight-knit community where marrying outside the faith is not allowed and converting to another religion not accepted. She did not know that the Yazidis’ religious leader, the Babasheik, had promised absolution to all those who returned from the IS Caliphate and guaranteed that they could return to their community.

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