By Ewelina U. Ochab
The world will remember the atrocities perpetrated by Daesh fighters against religious minorities in Syria and Iraq in 2014 and in the years that followed. Those atrocities include murder, enslavement, deportation and forcible transfer of population, imprisonment, torture, abduction of women and children, exploitation, abuse, rape, sexual violence and forced marriage. The atrocities committed by Daesh are now recognized as crimes against humanity, war crimes and even genocide, the crime of crimes. The world will remember the particular wickedness of the atrocities. Video footage of beheadings, of kidnapped victims thrown from high buildings or burnt alive. These graphic images will be difficult to forget.
However, the world remembers much less about the fact that many of the women and girls abducted by Daesh, back in August 2014 from northern Iraq, are still missing. This is despite several calls from advocates, including Nadia Murad, a Yazidi survivor of the Daesh genocide and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Nadia Murad called upon the world’s leaders to ensure the safe return of the abducted and enslaved women and girls. Five years later, over 3,000 women and girls abducted by Daesh fighters are still missing.
Little, if any, progress has been made to locate and liberate them. This is especially surprising as Daesh has lost its “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq. Nonetheless, the abducted women and girls were nowhere to be found. Many families have lost hope of seeing the women and girls alive. However, at the end of August 2019, a new report suggests that the women and girls may be alive, although their suffering continues.
According to an Arabic media outlet, some of the abducted Yazidi women and girls are currently in Iran, and have been offered for sale. According to their claims, two girls, Sabaya and Jariyat who were abducted by Daesh fighters, were moved to Syria and now ultimately transferred from Syria to Iran, allegedly by Iranian soldiers. According to the media outlet, the asking price for the release of the two girls is $40.000. The Clarion project states, “Iranian officials will only release the children after they have been identified – and for a price.”
The involvement of the Iranian government or its agents is yet to be verified. As a result of the concerning news from Iran, a British Parliamentarian, Lord Alton of Liverpool, called upon the U.K. Government to investigate the situation and engage in a dialogue with the Iranian government to clarify the issue and to ensure the safe return of the Yazidi girls, if they have indeed been trafficked to Iran. Other states should follow suit and engage the Iranian government in seeking the truth about the whereabouts of the Yazidi women and girls. We should be asking for the girls to be reunited with their families.
If the two girls in Iran are the abducted Yazidi women and girls, it may be plausible to consider that more of the abducted Yazidi women and girls may be in Iran or other neighboring countries, transferred when Daesh started to lose its caliphate. Hence, this is also an appeal to all, to be vigilant. We cannot become complicit in the enslavement of the abducted by Daesh women and girls. We need to speak up for them until they are free to speak up for themselves. As the search for the women and girls continues, no stone should be left unturned.