Global Violence Against Women

Thousands of Yazidis Remain Enslaved Two Years after Capture

Yazidi girl

Today is the second anniversary of the violent attack on the Yazidis of Sinjar by ISIS fighters, resulting in the death, kidnapping, or enslavement of an estimated 10,000 Yazidis.

The United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic determined in June that the crimes committed by ISIS against the Yazidis constitute genocide, and as such, the international community has an obligation to stop the atrocities, grant aid to the victims, and hold the involved perpetrators accountable.

On the morning of August 3, 2014, ISIS fighters seized the Sinjar district, home to around 350,000 Yazidis, forcing them to either convert or die. Many men who were unable to escape were killed, and the women and children taken into captivity. Many of the girls and young women were then sold as slaves to ISIS militants. More than 3,500 women and children remain in captivity, the boys as forced fighters, and the women and girls as servants and sex slaves.

“The West has not done much for my community and myself. The entire world remains silent as Yazidis face a holocaust,” said Nadia Murad, a Yazidi survivor of ISIS enslavement who was one of the few women able to escape captivity. She now travels the globe raising awareness for the urgent condition of Yazidi women and children. In an interview with Time, she continues, “I have been asking the world for nine months now to hold ISIS accountable. I have asked them to bring a case before the International Criminal Court. They have not done so.”

Only Germany has offered to help and support survivors with two-year visas.

The stories told by Yazidi women who have escaped their captors are deeply disturbing and inhumane. They describe large slave markets where they are hand selected by men from countries all over the world, including the United States, and forced into servitude or marriage. Many of the survivors tell of beatings, starvation and violent rape.

But their stories also highlight an unbelievable determination to survive, rebel, and escape.  They describe refusing to wash for months in an attempt to deter men from raping them; refusing to learn Arabic or convert to Islam; and sacrificing food in protest of their condition. Even as ISIS attempts to strip them of their humanity, these women have remained resilient.

Read their stories here.


United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner 8/3/16; Time 8/3/16; The Daily Beast 2015.

Support eh ERA banner