It’s a situation that has driven some speak out, some to flee and some to end their own lives, according to a report released Tuesday by Amnesty International.
One who reportedly committed suicide was a teenage girl named Jilan.
“We were 21 girls in one room,” a 21-year-old woman, called Luna, told the organization. “One day we were given clothes that looked like dance costumes and were told to bathe and wear those clothes. Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself. She was very beautiful. I think she knew that she was going to be taken away by a man and that is why she killed herself.”
Amnesty International interviewed 42 women and girls who have escaped from Islamic State captivity for its report, called, “Escape from Hell.” It chronicles the rape and sexual slavery, escapes and suicides since the Islamic State’s siege in June.
When militants marched through Iraq and Syria over the summer, hundreds were killed in raids. Thousands were forced from their homes, retreating up Mount Sinjar where they pleaded for U.S.-led airstrikes to save them. Many died there from thirst and starvation. Since then, militants have segregated their hospitals and schools, dictated what the Yazidis can wear and told them what they have to believe.
The majority of these perpetrators are Iraqi and Syrian men, according to the report. Most are fighters. Some are said to be supporters.
Under Islamic State control in northern Syria, at least eight woman have been stoned to death for alleged adultery. In northern Iraq, at least 10 have been killed for opposing extremists. One woman, who was a dentist, was beheaded for treating both men and women, the Associated Press reported.
The report gives personal accounts from these women and girls, some of whom are said to be as young as 10.
A 27-year-old survivor named Wafa told Amnesty International how she and her sister attempted suicide.
“The man who was holding us said that either we marry him and his brother or he would sell us,” she said. “At night we tried to strangle ourselves with our scarves. We tied the scarves around our necks and pulled away from each other as hard as we could, until I fainted. Two girls who were held with us woke up and stopped us and then stayed awake to watch over us. When they fell asleep at 5 a.m. we tried again, and again they woke up and stopped us. I could not speak for several days after that.”
According to Amnesty International, the trauma, namely sexual assaults, to these survivors is made worse by the stigma. Many believe that their honor in society has been marred.
Sixteen-year-old Randa said she was abducted from her home along with her parents and siblings. She told Amnesty International she was given as a “gift” to a man twice her age.
“I was taken to Mosul and kept there all the time,” she said. “A man called Salwan took me from there to an abandoned house. He also took my cousin, who is 13 years old. We resisted and they beat us. He took me as his wife by force. I told him I did not want to and tried to resist but he beat me. My nose was bleeding, I could not do anything to stop him.
“It is so painful what they did to me and to my family. Da’esh [another name for the Islamic State] has ruined our lives.”
In the report, Amnesty International calls upon the Kurdistan Regional Government, United Nations and humanitarian organizations to identify survivors of sexual slavery and provide them with medical care and support services.
“The physical and psychological toll of the horrifying sexual violence these women have endured is catastrophic,” Donatella Rovera, the group’s senior crisis response adviser, said in a statement. “Even those who have managed to escape remain deeply traumatized.”