Crime & Justice

AI: 2,000 Yezidi child survivors of IS suffer health crisis

Cairo, Jul 30 (efe-epa).- Almost 2,000 Yezidi children captured by the Islamic State terrorist group are facing a physical and mental health crisis, Amnesty International warned on Thursday.

The youngsters have returned to their families after being kidnapped as soldiers and sex slaves by jihadists in northern Iraq between 2014 and 2017.

Human rights organization AI said in a report that 1,992 Yezidi children were “abducted, tortured, forced to fight, raped and subjected to numerous other horrendous human rights abuses by IS”.

Matt Wells, AI crisis response deputy director on thematic issues, said in a statement: “While the nightmare of their past has receded, hardships remain for these children.

“After enduring the horrors of war at an extremely young age, they now need urgent support from the national authorities in Iraq and the international community to build their future.”

The 56-page report includes testimonials from dozens of children who returned from captivity with injuries, illnesses, physical disabilities and mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

AI identified two groups that are most likely to develop these problems: child soldiers and girls subjected to sexual violence.

Sahir, who was forcibly recruited at the age of 15, said: “I was forced to fight. I had to do it or die. I didn’t have any other option. It was out of my control.

“To survive, I did the fighting. It’s the worst thing that can happen to any human, the most degrading.”

AI contacted 14 children who had been forcibly recruited by IS to fight, more than half of whom said they had received no psychosocial, health or economic support upon their return and many were ostracized from their communities.

Yezidi girls who were sexually abused suffer from health problems including traumatic fistulas, scarring and difficulties conceiving or carrying a child to term, according to the report.

Randa, a 14-year-old who spent five years in IS captivity, said: “I was a child when they made me marry. They made me suffer.

“I want my future to be better. I want IS to be held accountable for what they did to me.”

Yezidi women and girls gave birth to hundreds of children as a result of sexual enslavement by IS fighters, AI said.

Many of these children have been ostracized by the Yezidi community for several reasons, including the legal framework in Iraq, which states that any child of an unknown or Muslim father must be registered as Muslim, the organization warned.

“Several women interviewed by Amnesty International said they were pressured, coerced or even deceived into leaving their children behind, causing severe mental anguish,” it added.

IS swept through the Sinjar district on 3 August 2014, killing thousands of men and abducting 6,500 Yezidi, including 3,548 girls and women who were used as sex slaves.

Until its territorial defeat in 2017, the terror group committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and what the UN has described as genocide against the Yezidi community in Iraq. EFE/EPA

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