A new report released Sunday provides more details on how Islamic State militants are inhumanly treating their captives of religious minority groups, more specifically the Yazidis. The report finds that militants are forcing preteens, teenagers and grown women into forced marriages and sex slavery, while forcing detained Yazidi men to convert to Islam and young Yazidi boys to train to become ISIS fighters.
On Aug. 3 when ISIS captured much of northern Iraq including the Yazidi religious minority town of Sinjar, they took hundreds of Yazidi men, women and children hostage. The report released by The Human Rights Watch is based on interviews with 16 escaped Yazidi captives, dozens of family members of ISIS detainees and two current ISIS captives. The interviews shine light on the brutal living conditions and requirements for Yazidi people under ISIS captivity.
Numerous female interviewees said that the younger Yazidi women are usually hand-picked by ISIS fighters to be forcefully married, while others are sold off as sex slaves by ISIS militants to the group's supporters.
One 15-year-old female who escaped captivity, speaking under the alias of Rewshe, said that after she was detained for three weeks, she, along with her sister and 200 other women, were transported to the Syrian stronghold of Raqqa and they were detained there for two days. On the first day, Rewshe said that a group of armed men came and took 20 of the women away. Rewshe said that a fighter later explained that the men had bought the women.
The next day, Rewshe and her sister were sold to a Palestinian ISIS fighter. Rewshe said that the fighter had told her that she had been purchased for $1,000. That night, her sister was sold to another ISIS fighter. Later that night, Rewshe was taken to the fighter's apartment and successfully guarded against his sexual advances and later escaped while the militant was sleeping.
The testimony from Rewshe and other interviewees provides more credence to the recent United Nations report where witnesses also claimed that ISIS transported female captives to Syria to sell them as sex slaves.
Another 15-year-old unnamed Yazidi girl interviewed by The Telegraph last week said that she too was sold by ISIS fighters for $1,000. However, she was sold twice. After being sold the first time, she claimed she killed her "husband" by shooting him with the housekeeper's gun. But with nowhere to hide she went back to the house where she was previously detained.
Not realizing that they had already sold her off once before, the 15-year-old was sold again by the militants. This time, to a Saudi fighter for $1,000. She later escaped by drugging the tea she served to the fighter and his comrades.
"He told me, 'I'm going to change your name to Abeer, so your mother doesn't recognize you,'" she said. "You'll become Muslim, then I will marry you. But I refused to become a Muslim and that's why I fled."
Although a number of detained women are sold off as sex slaves, many are also married away as prizes to ISIS fighters and sometimes this occurs in the form of forced group weddings. Interviewees said that even if the women were already married, the militants chose not to believe in their marriage because the women had no kids to prove it. One escaped Yazidi said that in the prison in Mosul that she was held at, she saw girls as young as 12 and 13 being taken as brides.
A 19-year-old female using the alias of Seve said that she was taken captive after ISIS shot and killed her husband. She said that she was taken to a house in Mosul where they were conducting a large group wedding and forcing a number of women to "look happy" as they were married to ISIS fighters.
"It was supposed to be a wedding party. They were tossing sweets at us and taking photos and videos of us. They forced us to look happy for the videos and photos," Seve said. "The fighters were so happy; they were firing shorts in the air and shouting. There was one woman from Kocho who was very beautiful. The leader of the fighters took her for himself. They dressed her up like a bride."
As for the men and boys, interviewees claim that the boys are taken away and given military and Islamic training, while the men are forced to convert to Islam in ceremonies of mass conversion.
Three escapees said that the militants separate young boys from their families in order to properly give them proper militant training. One 28-year-old escapee going by the name of Khider said that when he and others were first apprehended in Sinjar, boys aged 8-12 were separated from the group.
"The older brothers of those boys became so scared," Khider said. "They asked 'Where are you taking them?' [ISIS fighters] said, 'Don't worry, we will feed and take care of them. We will take them to a base to teach the Quran, how [to] fight, and how to be jihadists.'"
Not only is sex slavery, forced marriages and forced conversions prevalent, but the militants also force captives to live in tight living spaces and remain inside at all times and the fighters deny them basic human needs, according to the Sunday report.
One 17-year-old who escaped from a captive living hall in Mosul said that the living quarters were so cramped that often times the captives could not move and the children had trouble breathing. The captives had to sleep on top of one another without any beds or blankets.
A woman currently being detained by ISIS said in a phone interview that captives are not allowed outside of their living hall and if they are caught outside they are likely to be killed.
"We can't leave the houses," the woman said. "Sometimes we sneak out to see what's going on, but whenever we see them coming, we immediately run back inside. If they saw anyone outside, they would kill them."
Although many fighters join ISIS because they believe it is the proper way to implement Islam, some fighters end up defecting from the group once they see how the group mistreats its captives. One 25-year-old female ISIS fighter from Syria joined ISIS looking for protection from the mass chaos of the Syrian civil war in her hometown. After she saw the militants conduct beheadings and crucifixions, she knew she had to get out.