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Lamiya Haji Bashar - Lamiya Hacı Başar
‘He said that either they must kill me or cut off my foot to stop me escaping,’ Lamiya recalls.
So how did she respond to such a terrifying sentence?
‘I told him that if you cut off one foot then I will escape with the other. I told the judge I would never give up. So they replied they would keep on torturing me if I tried to escape.’
She showed immense bravery, yet it was typical of this remarkable teenager. Eventually her life – and her feet – were saved by a senior IS official, who argued that she should be sold to a new ‘owner’.
Lamiya was one of the several thousand Yazidi women and girls condemned to sex slavery, traded like animals and abused by barbarous fanatics. Another year of fear, agony and assaults lay ahead of her, held captive by a cruel surgeon, who traded kidnapped women and children when not stitching up wounded jihadis.
But now Lamiya is free, though even her escape was etched in pain and tragedy. She was injured in an explosion that left extensive physical scars on her face to go with the deep psychological scars on her mind.
I met Lamiya in a quiet hotel in Germany, where this extraordinary, softly spoken young woman told me her story – a tale of savagery far beyond anyone’s worst nightmare.
She heard her father and brothers being shot, was enslaved by their cruel killers, and then beaten and raped for almost two years by a succession of older men.
During her time trapped in the IS heartland of Syria and northern Iraq, Lamiya saw children sold to old men as sex slaves, and she was forced to help make suicide bombs. At one point Lamiya was thrown into a room to be gang-raped by 40 fanatics. Yet she never buckled. ‘These men were more than monsters,’ she says. ‘That’s why I stayed strong, because I wanted to challenge the life they gave me.’
The brave teenager endured a horrific tale of savagery far beyond anyone¿s worst nightmare. Above she tells her story to Ian Birrell in Germany
Now, showing remarkable courage, she has taken the unusual step for her gender, her religion and her region, in speaking openly about the horrors.
It is hard to believe that she is still only 18. Lamiya’s stance was recognised last month with the EU’s top human rights award – the Sakharov Prize. Nadia Murad, another Yazidi sex slave survivor, was also honoured.
Their stories remind the world that so many more Yazidi women and girls remain caught in similarly appalling circumstances by bigots who view them as infidels due to their ancient beliefs.
The 400,000-strong Yazidi community is persecuted by extreme Muslims for devil-worship since their religion, blending aspects of ancient Middle East traditions, reveres an angel which takes the form of a blue peacock. I first broke news about their plight in 2014.
Lamiya comes from the Yazidi village of Kocho in northern Iraq, where the 1,800 residents were told by IS to convert to Islam or die. Until then she had had a happy childhood, growing up on a prosperous farm owned by a wealthy family. She went to school, worked hard and hoped to become a teacher.
‘When I first heard of Daesh [another term for IS] on television I thought it was some kind of new animal,’ she says, underlining her youth. ‘I didn’t know they were a terror gang.’
Yazidi women were split up - married women and younger children were taken to Tal Afar and unmarried women and teenagers were sent to Mosul
When IS swept into Mosul, Iraq’s second city, 80 miles west of Kocho, elders realised their village might become caught up in the spiralling conflict, but they never thought peaceful civilians like them would be targeted.
However, in early August 2014, after capturing the nearby city of Sinjar, two cars filled with IS fighters arrived.
‘They asked us to convert, but said they would do no harm,’ Lamiya says. The village was surrounded, yet a few families managed to flee.
Then, on August 15, a large force of black-clad men stormed the village – locals recognised some as those from nearby towns.
Everyone was ordered into the school, stripped of all their possessions, and females were taken to the first floor.
‘I was so scared. I was thinking of my father, my family, my life,’ says Lamiya. ‘Then they took all our men – fathers, sons, brothers.’
It was the last time she saw her father and two brothers. IS told the terrified women that the men were being sent to Mount Sinjar, where many Yazidi had sought refuge. ‘Ten minutes later we heard the shooting start,’ recalls Lamiya.
The men were slaughtered in their own streets. Then the women were split up: married women and younger children were taken to nearby Tal Afar, while unmarried women and teenagers were sent to Mosul. Older women were shot dead the next day.
Lamiya and three of her sisters soon got a taste of the fate that lay ahead. ‘The men began attacking us, touching us and kissing us.’
In Mosul, the captives were forced into a big building filled with hundreds of similar-aged Yazidi. It turned out to be a market for militants to buy sex slaves. ‘Men came all the time to choose girls. If someone refused to go, they were beaten with cables,’ says Lamiya. ‘It was so painful to see these old men, these monsters, attack the girls. Even girls of nine and ten were crying and begging not to be attacked. I can’t describe how horrible it was.’