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Gender-based Violence Against Yazidi Women in Irbil

Drishya Singh


Tremor, threat, and agony. These three elements play a consistent role in each and every woman, living in Iraq as the land continues to be encapsulated with the ideologies of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Where honor killings, genocide, and marital rape are deemed widely acceptable, Yazidi women in particular come across abuse and assault on a daily basis, are exploited and termed as prostitutes, and are attacked for deferring even the slightest aspect of gender roles.

People following Yazidism, a religion combing portions of both Islam and Christianity, fall under the group of minorities having a settlement in Iraq. As the country has compiled itself into a well-structured tower of political and economic insurgencies, continual austerities, and authentication of inhuman laws, Yazidi women have been facing persistent abuse for generations now. All women under ISIS are already on the edge of facing daily life risks however; Yazidi women are even more open to danger as the Yazidism followers solely are cited as outcasts and referred to with derogatory terms as ‘Devil Worshippers’. After the official establishment of ISIS in the year of 2013, the state's fighters and supporters abducted more than 6000 women and girls after raiding their hometowns and brutally murdering the males of the family. The advocates of ISIS claim that Yazidi women are a ‘gift from Allah to men’ and thus they rightfully have the power to enslave and sexually exploit these women as they are not typical Muslims. They support these extreme theoretical claims by using the support of Islam and justifying the act as a better practice of Jihad (fight against enemies of Islam).

The situation of Yazidi women is no different than what women from generations before had faced and strays much farther from the conditions of women in a global scenario today. Barren from basic necessities, to being stripped away from their birth homes in the name of gift as a mere process to maintain familial financial crisis, to being captivated and sold repeatedly Yazidi women have been fighting a prolonged war of freedom but the end still does not seem near. The codes and amendments passed by the government do not even affirm proper and strict laws for women’s protection on the complex aspects of marital rape, child marriage, honor killings, trafficking, captivation, and many others. The vagueness of some limited rules- that even if to a lower degree work to support women- also acts as a measure that allows the supporters of ISIS to continue with their inhuman executions of these women.

While a small number of Yazidi women that had been captivated are rescued and returned to their families the fight for them is not yet over. Stigma among the family members staking that the survivors’ loss of dignity and the social rejection that comes after adds more to the struggles of these women and causes them to engage in continuous hardships even after being introduced to their entitled liberation.

Many Yazidi women that were held captive and forced into marriage found more consolation in death rather than having a consequent ordeal with their abusers. Numerous attempts using scarves and repeated banging of their head on the walls had been made. While some gained complete emancipation, others did not and had to continue going through tortuous sexual slavery and abuse until they were to be rescued. Many cases of missing Yazidi women are yet to be reviewed; many hidden survivors lack rescue and the rescued lack the basic health and emotional support they require.

This is the brutal and unmasked truth of the suffrage that women still go through in various corners of the world. Steps that are being made to empower and make women independent need to be enhanced and the start of this enhancement should be through the supply of basic liberty, rights, and living conditions that some women still lack.


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