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Almost 2,000 traumatised children abandoned in Iraq after Isis captivity

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Almost 2,000 Yezidi children who were held captive, raped and forced to fight by the so-called Islamic State have effectively been abandoned by the authorities, Amnesty International has warned.

A major new report from the human rights group reveals the severity of the challenges faced by the estimated 1,992 children who survived after being abducted and tortured when ISIS stormed their homeland in northern Iraq.

Between 2014 and 2017, ISIS fighters committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and what the UN describes as genocide against Iraq’s Yezidi community.

The Amnesty report, based on interviews with survivors, said many are still suffering from  ‘debilitating long-term injuries,’ as well as post-traumatic stress disorder, mood swings, and flashbacks.

It highlighted the sexual abuse faced by Yezidi girls, quoting one doctor who said that almost every girl she had treated between the ages of nine and 17 had been raped or subjected to other sexual violence.

Amnesty said existing services for survivors of sexual violence have largely neglected girls, who face a range of health issues including traumatic fistulas, scarring and difficulties conceiving or carrying a child to term.

Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Deputy Director, Matt Wells, said: ‘These children were systematically subjected to the horror of life under ISIS, and now they’ve been left to pick up the pieces.

‘They must be given the support they desperately need to rebuild their lives as part of the Yezidi community’s future. ‘Their physical and mental health must be a priority in the years ahead if they are to fully reintegrate into their families and community.’

Amnesty is also calling for enslaved Yezidi women who had the babies of IS fighters to be resettled with their children abroad. Yezidi women and girls gave birth to hundreds of children as a result of sexual enslavement by members of ISIS.

These children have largely been denied a place in the Yezidi community while others were taken away from their mothers. Several women interviewed by Amnesty said they were pressured, coerced or even deceived into leaving their children behind, causing severe mental anguish.

Hanan*, 24, whose daughter was taken from her, told Amnesty: ‘My feeling is the same feeling as all the other mothers [in the same situation]. We have all thought about killing ourselves, or tried to do it … We are human, we have our rights, and we want our children to be with us.

Whatever we experienced with ISIS, we are going through something worse now. We need a solution.’ Amnesty is calling for international organisations such as the UN to prioritise and fast-track these women and children for resettlement or humanitarian relocation, with the co-operation of the national authorities and foreign governments.
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