Despite facing fervent opposition at the hands of local Kurdish fighters and external Western military forces, the Islamic State (IS) continues to wreak havoc across Northern Iraq and Syria, in its goal to establish an Islamic ‘caliphate’ in the region.
Amongst the most affected by the groups rise has been a minority population in Iraq known as the Yazidis, who have been targeted as part of IS’s campaign to rid the region of non-islamic influences. A recent report by Amnesty International has revealed the extent of the group’s brutal treatment of Yazidi women, including enslavement for the purpose of sexual slavery. Since the groups emergence earlier this year, thousands of Yazidi women and girls have been captured, sold off into marriage, or given as gifts to IS militant fighters. This has driven many of the victims to suicide.
The details of the report were described as horrifying by prominent Middle Eastern analyst, Holly Dagres, who said it contained first-hand accounts of girls as young as 12, fortunate enough to escape the onslaught.
However, the report also provided several recommendations on how best to assist these women, in coming to terms with the trauma they would have experienced at the hands of IS.
“I think what we really need to do as the international community is actually heed these recommendations of NGO’s and humanitarian organizations helping these women that are able to escape by providing them with therapy, getting them tested for STD’s, and providing the option of abortion,” she suggested.
Dagres stressed that close attention needed to be afforded to the plight of the Yazidi women, specifically in terms of trauma counseling. She said the women would need to be treated as rape victims, receiving the same psychological and physical treatment that other rape victims were given.
“If we just focus on these things, I think we are able to help the overcome what has happened. They won’t be able to forget, but if we can just provide them with that kind of care, I think it will at least alleviate some of the hardships they’ve endured,” she said.
The issue is part of a more widespread epidemic of sexual harassment against women, notably in Middle Eastern and Arab countries. Being based in Egypt and having surveyed such incidents first hand, Dagres explained that in most cases women received the brunt of the blame, mainly due to their manner of dressing. She said the issue had nothing to do with sex at all, rather about males attempting to exert their dominance and power over the women.
She said it was imperative that education was brought about to help change such perceptions, amongst both men and women.
“I think the governments have to play a role in educating, whether it’s through television announcements or schools and what not. I think there should be a big P.R campaign against it,” she said.
Addressing the rise of IS, Dagres said the threat posed by the group was something the global community had yet to deal with. Despite the ongoing campaigns of groups like al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and the Taliban amongst others, the way IS functioned was unique.
“It is a militia that has been able to take over so much land, and for it to garner so much attention from the West in terms of fighters, I just don’t see this ending in such an easy manner,” she said.
Also concerning has been the number of foreign fighters that have taken up ranks with the radical group, with reports putting the number of foreign recruits at well over 16 000. Dagres said it was vital that this flow of young, naïve recruits was curbed in order to properly tackle the group.
“Egypt’s actually a perfect example. Men between 18 and 40 have to get permission to travel to Turkey, Lebanon and other countries surrounding the Islamic State. If that what it takes to stop it, then I think that’s a good start,” she stated. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)