It all starts with a photo and a message on the phone: “Virgin. Pretty. 12 years. It is priced at $11,800 and will be sold soon.” It has been sent by a member of the Islamic State or Daesh. He intends to earn money with the girl’s relatives; it is much more beneficial to him than selling it to his fellow terrorists.
The 21st century has its particular monster born from the ashes of Al-Qaeda, Daesh. For those, religion was their guide; for these it is an excuse. Among his businesses is the buying and selling of Yazidi women and girls as if they were cattle. A militiaman told a woman he had bid on: “You are like a sheep and I have bought you”. The sale price depends on your age, if you have been married, the number of children you have had and your physical beauty . As they pass through different owners, their value is devalued in a slave market regulated by a committee created for this purpose. The guerrillas bid online, where you can see photos of captured Yazidi women along with their age, marital status, where they are located and their price. That of girls from 1 to 9 years old is around 150 euros , adolescents are worth 114 and the price drops from 20 years to 37 euros for those over 40. So that everything is tied and well tied those responsible In 2014, the religious Daesh published a manual with 27 rules entitled “Questions and answers on the taking of captives and slaves” where it allows, among other aberrations, “to have sexual relations with slave women who have not reached puberty if they are suitable for it ”.
Which women can be enslaved? In essence, all non-Muslims, no matter their age. And it is that according to Saleh Al-Fawzan , a member of the Council of Ulema, the highest religious body in Saudi Arabia, “slavery is part of Islam, it is part of jihad , and jihad will last as long as Islam”. But the fate of the infidels depends on their gender. If you are a woman you will end up a slave, if you are a man you will have another: small children are kidnapped to indoctrinate them and become soldiers, older ones are shot to death or have their heads cut off.
Genocide and sexual slavery
The Yazidi genocide began on August 3, 2014, when Daesh entered the Iraqi city of Sinjar, on the border with Syria, where they have always lived. The militiamen “grabbed all the men and killed them. Six of my brothers were killed,” said a survivor, Nadia Murad. They also killed, along with 80 other women, her mother, because none of them had sexual value. The UN calculates that 5,500 people were killed and 6,300 kidnapped. “Children over the age of four were taken to training camps. Then they took the girls over the age of nine.” It was their spoils of war. “On the way they touched our breasts and rubbed their beards on our faces .” Arriving at the Daesh headquarters in Mosul, Nadia met other Yazidi girls and women. Every hour Daesh men arrived, selected the one they wanted and raped her . If in the end they were bought, no better fate awaited them. According to one who was able to escape, in addition to her buyer, a Chechen, ” their guards raped me at least five times a day and forced me to recite verses from the Koran while doing so.” She added, “Once they burned my thighs with boiling water because I refused to say the prayers. I never dared to contradict them again.”
The UN report on the barbarity to which the Yazidis have been subjected is terrifying: an 18-year-old girl was sold up to 8 times and raped every day of her captivity while being forced to take birth control pills: in the end her relatives were able buy it for $20,000; all abducted girls over the age of 9 become sex slaves; if a woman escapes but is captured by the soldiers, she is raped by all the men in the barracks: they call it ‘sexual jihad’ . Yazidis have only two options: suicide or, if they are lucky, being ‘bought’ by their relatives through local intermediaries.
the yazidi mystery
Very little is known about them. As an English journalist who ‘discovered’ the Yazidis in 2015 pointed out, “if war teaches us geography, genocide makes us aware of ethnic and religious minorities who would otherwise remain in the dark.”
It is estimated that there are around one million Yazidis in the world , settled since time immemorial in northern Iraq and Syria, and also in southeastern Turkey. Armenians and Yazidis share a recent history of persecution and genocide. In the first decades of the 20th century, while the former were massacred by the Turks, the latter offered them protection. And vice versa, given that some historians count up to 70 different persecutions against the Yazidis. The penultimate was in 2007, when Al Qaeda attacked Yazidi communities in northern Iraq causing 796 deaths and 1,500 injuries . Faced with such dangers, both peoples have offered each other mutual protection: “My grandmother told me that she preferred to do her shopping in places owned by Armenians,” recalls the German journalist of Yazidi origin Düzen Tekkal.
But something differentiates the two peoples: while the Armenians live their religion publicly and proudly, the Yazidis have been reclusive, keeping their religious life secret. “They always stayed away from public life and education. They preferred not to send their children to school for fear of Islamization,” said Düzen.
This is one of the reasons why so little is known about this town, its beliefs and customs. The other is that we are dealing with a religion that is neither conquering, like Islam, nor proselytizing, like Christianity . Anyone is free to find the Yazidi religion attractive, but no one who was not born into their community can convert to it. Their thousand-year-old isolation and being in a dangerous and inhospitable region have not attracted much anthropologists either: the first serious study of this people -and one of the few that exist- is by the 19th-century French orientalist Johachim Menant.
Hence, its history is as unknown as its religion. They do not have a sacred book, which makes them infidels in the eyes of the remains of the peoples of the region. Its tradition is exclusively oral so its history is based on legends of which, in the best of cases, its origin is unknown.
The Yazidis represent only a small part of the inhabitants of Kurdistan. They speak the same language as the Kurds, Kurmanji , but they don’t look alike physically. In fact, among the peoples of the Middle East, the Yazidis are considered women of great beauty : dark-skinned, they stand out for the vigor of their physiognomy and the harmony of their features, with faces that they consider perfectly regular. Hence the obsession of Daesh terrorists to buy a Yazidi woman, as evidenced by the videos that they themselves upload to YouTube.
It is a simple, peaceful people, without pretensions of conquest beyond dominating nature in order to survive. In a region characterized by conquerors and oppressors, they have learned to coexist with other peoples in the harshest conditions. As one journalist said, “they are the easiest people to make peace with, but no one in this world can make peace with Daesh.”
Açikyildiz, B. (2014) The Yezidis, IB Tauris