A Yazidi girl who escaped ISIS captivity after being tortured, raped, and sold into sex slavery has recounted the atrocities she endured at the hands of the terrorist group, and shared how her experience has motivated her to help others in similar situations.
In November, the United Nations Population Fund shared the story of 19-year-old from Iraq, given the name Maha to protect her identity, who said she, along with thousands of others, was captured in the city of Sinjar in 2014.
"Like other Yazidi women and girls who lived in Sinjar, I was separated from my family, given as a gift to an ISIL emir [leader] and brutally raped. It was a horrific experience...I hated life and attempted suicide," she said.
When the young woman told her captors "No religion accepts what they did," the militants punished her by enslaving her and selling her to a man in Syria.
She was eventually rescued in a military operation and reunited with her family. After receiving medical and psychological support at The Duhok Women's Center, which is supported by the UNFPA, Maha now works to help others in similar situations. As of October, the center had assisted a staggering 824 survivors, including some younger than 15.
"I am determined to reintegrate into my community, to be a successful working woman and a role model for other women who have been through a similar experience," Maha said. "Though I will not forget the evil ordeal under ISIS, I am determined to start over."
Maha is just one of thousands of Christian and Yazidi women in the Middle East who suffered at the hands of Islamic State militants who, under Islamic Law, are permitted to capture and forcibly make "heretical" women sexual slaves.
The Independent notes that a disturbing pamphlet distributed by the terrorist group deemed it "permissible" to rape a female slave "immediately after taking possession of her" and "permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn't reached puberty if she is fit for intercourse".
More than 2,700 Yazidi women and children have since been rescued or escaped ISIS captivity, while more than 3,600 are still enslaved, said Hussein al-Qaidi, director of the Office of Kidnapped Affairs of the Kurdish regional government.
In March US Secretary of State John Kerry asserted that ISIS "is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control including Yazidis, Christians and Shiia Muslims".