Salwa Khalaf Rasho, statement to UK parliament – English translation from Arabic, March 15, 2016
Dear ladies and gentlemen,
Today I would like to speak in the name of God, justice and humanity. To begin with, I would like to express my deepest thanks for this invitation, and I am thankful to you for paying attention to my story and my pain. What I am telling you is only one of thousands of stories from Yazidi children, women, and girls.
My name is Salwa Khalaf Rasho. I was born in 1998 and was in the ninth grade. I was leading a simple and modest life with my family until the day when Daesh attacked Shengal on August 3, 2014. I liked my city, Shengal, very much. I grew up under the principal of co-existence with all societies within the community, regardless of one’s religion or sect, because the values of my religion do not allow to hate others and discriminate against them.
Therefore, Shengal was well known as the city of tolerance and ethnic diversity. What happened was shocking and unexpected, because we saw Daesh as our brothers. With this, I mean the Arab tribes of the villages that belong to Shengal. Suddenly, they became monsters and wolves. They collaborated with Daesh when Yazidi women and children were enslaved and men were killed.
There were about 9,000 Peshmerga in my city who were armed with various types of weapons. They said to us, “We will protect and defend Shengal, and Daesh will only enter Shengal over our dead bodies. We will defend Shengal until the last bullet.”
Unfortunately, they ran away without any resistance and without warning or giving notice to the civilians so we could escape from falling into the arms of Daesh monsters. They left us women and children to our cold-blooded fate. I and the people with me tried to flee into the mountains like the others.
At 8:30 in the morning, we fled from our house in the direction of Shengal Mountain, but a check point of Peshmerga stopped us and blocked our way. Therefore, we had to look for an alternative route. We found another way. In order to leave Shengal city and reach the mountain, this other way was further. When we reached this other way, a convoy of Peshmerga together with its commander, Serbast Bapiri, and his soldiers pointed their guns at us and threatened us and said, “Clear out of the way so the Peshmerga convoy can flee first and reach the mountain.”
When the convoy went, we could go a few hundred meters toward the mountain, until one car broke down and blocked the road. Therefore, the cars were stuck in a traffic jam. We waited. During this time, IS terrorists reached us and surrounded us. Most of them were Arabic and Kurdish Sunnis from the region. They said, “Don’t be afraid of us. Go back to your houses. We are not here because of you. We will not injure you.”
They forced us to get out of our cars and return to the city. Because of my disabled cousin, they allowed me to get into the car with my grandmother and another cousin. The rest of the family had to walk back, but they were able to escape and reach the mountain.
When we reached Shengal city, they put us in a hall as prisoners. There were a lot of families. When we drove in Shengal city, we saw a lot of dead bodies. The bodies of a young girl and young man are still in my mind. In this hall, they separated women and children from men. When we were captured, there was a young girl from Ger Zerig village who had just had surgery. She was begging for food and water, but the terrorists denied her. They did not give her anything. After a few hours she died from exhaustion and thirst.
At 5 in the evening, they separated women and young girls and put us in buses and drove us to Mosul. There were about 120 women and girls with me in the same bus. Along the way IS terrorists were groping us and humiliating us. They were laughing at us. At 2 AM, we reached Mosul, and they put is all in a sporting hall in the district of Hay Al Zirahi. We were about 700 women, girls, and children. After that an Imam came and prayed and said we are now Muslim. “Forget your families. We will marry you. You are starting a new life.”
After that, they registered our names and ages and separated us into two groups: married and unmarried girls and women. They did this until 3 AM in the morning. They took away our mobile phones, but my cousin hid hers. We knew what was going to happen to us: raping, violence, pain and humiliation. Therefore, we tried to kill ourselves and tried to find a rope or something in order to hang ourselves, but we did not find anything. We also tried to cut an electric cable, but we did not succeed. We stayed for six days in this hall. After that, they brought us to a new hall, and we stayed there for three days. In this hall, older women and children were also separated from younger women and girls.
After that, I and other girls were brought to a big house near to Al Noor mosque. In this house there were about 700 girls from age 9 to 35. We stayed only one day in this building. After that an emir (prince) and officers of Daesh came and chose the most beautiful girls for themselves. Each of them took three or four girls. The girls who did not want to go with them were hit and tortured. After that, they separated siblings and transferred them to Syria as gifts for the officers there. This process took two days.
After this process, just 150 were left. About 70 girls were transferred to Syria. Me and my cousin and the rest of the girls were deported to Baaj. After that, in Baaj, three Saudis came and bought 13 girls. The same day Gilan, a 17-year-old girl from Tel Azeer committed suicide. After she learned that Daesh killed her family, she cut her wrists. In revenge, the Daesh terrorists took their dead bodies and threw them to the dogs.
After this, we were taken to Al Medina School. There we stayed for one week. After that, I and 32 other girls were taken to Tal Banat. We stayed there one week, also. Then we were taken to Kocho. There we saw some hands that had been cut off. These hands were near the village school. After that, I and six other girls were taken to Rambusi. There IS terrorists forced us to marry them. They threatened to take us to the slave market in Syria if we refused. They showed us some photos of Yazidi girls with bonded hands at the slave market and said to us, “This will be your fate, also.”
So we said, “Just give us one day, and we will give you our answer.” That night we decided to flee. Rambusi village is close to Shengal Mountain. We divided ourselves into two groups. The first group was supposed to flee first and the second one fifteen minutes later. The first group fled. After that, another girl and I fled, but we were captured when we tried to escape. When IS asked us about the other girls, we said, “Some of your friends came and took them away.”
I was locked in a dark room and they denied me food and water. They came into the room twice a day and hit me and harassed me until I fell down and lost consciousness. This punishment came from Emir Abu Meriam. When he tried to go from Tal Afar to Shengal, his car was bombed by coalition air strikes and he was killed.
After that, Abu Karam was his replacement. His full name was Ali Newaf Khalaf Al Juburi. His punishment to me was that he blindfolded me and took me to a location where there was a young man whom he said was a Christian journalist. He beheaded him in front of me, and said to me they will do the same to my family if I try to escape.
After that, Abu Karam took me as his slave and took to his house. He had two wives. At first, they were very bad to me, and, therefore, I tried to kill myself. After the women knew about my attempted suicide, they commiserated with me. When we were in a discussion, I found out that one of the women was the daughter of my father’s friend. They told me if I do my housework good and look after the children good, they would be better to me, and they would not allow me to be sold.
In order to gain their trust, I did all my housework and improved my relationship with them. After two months, the family moved to Mosul. When the fights intensified, Abu Karam went to fight, and I was left alone with his wives in the house.
On March 18, 2015, I was able to get a mobile phone and send a message to my father. I told him where I was. After that, he contacted a friend in Mosul and told him about my situation. This friend told my father he would try to help me if he could reach me. My father sent him my address. The next day, when the whole family was having an afternoon nap, at 3 PM, I wore a burka and left the house.
I stopped a taxi, and the driver took me to the address of my father’s friend. I stayed there for one week. He found a smuggler with whom I could flee. He took me to Wanke near Duhok, Kurdistan [northern Iraq]. After that, I lived with my family in a tent in Berseve refugee camp near Zakho. This was, also, a horrible situation, but with God’s and Germany’s help and kindness, I and a thousand other Yazidi girls, women, and children are in a therapy program.
Dear ladies and gentlemen, this is my story of eight months of enslavement, rape, and physical and social torture in the hands of the Daesh monsters. I and the other women and girls of various ages were in so many terrible and difficult situations, for example, rape and discrimination. They forced us to do things they wanted. After some days of this, they sold us to others for only ten dollars. When I am sitting here now and telling you my story, there are still several thousand Yazidi women and girls who are in the same situation and are sold every day.
They are sold, raped, humiliated, and tortured every day. There are still several hundred Yazidi children in Daesh training camps, being drilled and brainwashed to be Daesh terrorists.
Since the beginning, until now, it was and still is possible to free those women by planning special operations to save them, like the operation a few weeks ago in which a Swedish girl was freed from Mosul. The number of IS guards is very small. In many regions the distance between IS and Peshmerga and coalition forces is very short.
Until now, twenty-five mass graves with hundreds of Yazidi men, women, and children have been found. About 400,000 Yazidi people, representing 80% of the world’s Yazidi population, are currently living in tents. The humanitarian situation is bad after having lost everything. I am sitting here with you and asking in the name of humanity to stand with me in the Yazidi community and to solve the Yazidi question by supporting our recommendations.
Those recommendations are:
First, our plea to the U.K. government and queen is to free our women and children.
Second, call for the U.N. Security Council to recognize the Yazidi genocide and bring the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Third, focus on the escaped women and children who have been tortured had these experiences. Support them and their families and bring them to the U.K. through a program like the one I am in in Germany.
Fourth, rebuild Shengal and provide a safety zone for minorities in the Nineveh Plains under the security of the United Nations so that families can live there in safety.
Fifth, provide asylum for Yazidis, Christians, and other minorities to Europe. Within the last six months more than 120 Yazidis, mostly women and children, have drowned in the sea.
Thank you for your attention. I thank you for the opportunity to tell you and the world my story of what happened to me and my people.
I am not the first Yazidi who has spoken to the UK parliamentarians. It is time for governments to act to save Yazidis, not in the name of political partisanship, but in the name of humanity.
Salwa Khalaf Rasho
from Shengal city, now in Germany
translated from Arabic by Gian Aldonani, Cologne, Germany
statement to UK parliament – English version
March 15, 2016
email@example.com (Arabic, Kurdish, German)