Yazidi Girls Sold as Sex Slaves while Women March against Trump
On January 21, some women's rights groups organized "Women's Marches" in many cities across the Unites States and around the world. The rallies largely targeted recently-inaugurated U.S. President Donald Trump.
There were many speakers and participants. One, the actress Ashley Judd, read a poem in Washington D.C. that asked why "tampons are taxed when Viagra and Rogaine are not".
As Ms. Judd talked about her devastating tragedy, thousands of Yazidi children and women were being forced into sexual slavery in Iraq and Syria at the hands of Islamic State (ISIS), and available for purchase at sex-slave markets.
ISIS attacked the Yazidi homeland of Shingal in Iraq on August 3, 2014; more than 9,000 Yazidis were killed, kidnapped, or sexually enslaved. Yazidis are a historically persecuted religious minority in the Middle East.
The Islamic State has institutionalized a culture of rape and sex-slavery. ISIS is waging a literal war against women. It has even published a "price list" of Yazidi and Christian girls -- as young as one to nine years of age.
Middle East scholar Raymond Ibrahim wrote about one Yazidi girl enslaved when she was 15 years old and endured months of captivity before she managed to escape:
"I remember a man who looked at least 40 years old coming and taking a ten-year-old girl. When she resisted him, he beat her severely, using stones, and would have opened fire on her if she had not gone with him. Everything against her will. They used to come and buy the girls without a price, I mean, they used to tell us Yazidi girls, you are sabiya [spoils of war, sex slaves], you are kuffar [infidels], you are to be sold without a price," meaning they had no base value. Some Yazidi girls were sold for a few packs of cigarettes."Every day I died 100 times over. Not just once. Every hour I died, every hour. ... From the beating, from the misery, from the torture," she said.
Mirza Ismail, founder and chairman of the Yezidi Human Rights Organization-International, said in his speech at the U.S. Congress:
"According to many escaped women and girls to whom I spoke in Northern Iraq, the abducted Yazidis, mostly women and children, number over 7,000.In December 2015, reports disclosed that ISIS was selling Yazidi women and children in the southeastern city of Gaziantep (or Antep), Turkey. Gaziantep has come to be known for the widespread Islamic State activities in the city.
However, this and many other threats did not stop women's rights defenders in Gaziantep from protesting the Turkish government's inaction in the face of IS activities.
An activist from the group "Gaziantep Democratic Women's Platform", Fatma Keskintimur, read a statement to the press, which said in part:
"That the jihadi gangs fighting in Syria has received the biggest support from Turkey and that the cell houses they use... [are] known by everybody. Given what kind of a danger this situation creates for those who live in Antep, the uneasiness of people is intensifying every day."Even under these conditions, women's rights defenders in Turkey -- particularly Kurds -- kept struggling and protesting the government.
Last year, for example, the "Yazidi Women's Assembly" commemorated August 3rd as "the day of international action against massacres against women and genocide". Members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) organized protests in many cities across Turkey to condemn the Yazidi genocide and show solidarity with the victims.
Safak Ozanlı, a former MP from the HDP, said that ISIS still held 3,000 Yazidi women as sex slaves: "ISIS sees women in Shingal and Kobane as war booty. The women who remain alive are sold to Arab sheikhs. We -- as women -- will stand united against ISIS and all dictators."
Members of the Alevi religious minority also supported the protest in Mersin. Zeynep Kaya Cavus, a leading Alevi activist, said that the Yazidi women are "kidnapped and enslaved as war booty and exposed to systematic sexual assaults and this is genocide against women".
There are a few Americans, too, that are doing their best to help Yazidis, such as Amy L. Beam, a human rights activist who has been living with and advocating for Yazidis full time since 2014. Her book The Last Yezidi Genocide, is to be published shortly, and she is the executive director of "Amy, Azadi and Jiyan" (AAJ -- "Friend, Freedom, and Life"), a humanitarian organization in Iraqi Kurdistan.
"Thousands of Yezidis have a long list of dead or missing family members under ISIS control in Iraq or Syria," she wrote. "Their psychology is very bad as they see very little international help on the one-year anniversary of the attack.
"Yazidi girls and women with their children ... are subjected to repeated beatings and rape by ISIS fighters who each was given one girl as a war trophy. Over 1,000 of these girls and women have escaped independently or been liberated from ISIS".One wishes that the women activists in the U.S. would raise their voices against the genocidal attacks on Yazidi women and children. But they have not. "Women's rights groups in the U.S. have not supported the women in Iraq and Syria who really are oppressed, kidnapped, and raped," Beam told Gatestone.
Some of the participants of the women's march in Washington claim that Trump will take away their rights -- an accusation that many women who suffer under Islamist governments or organizations would find laughable. They are worried about being able to get an abortion, and their concern is justified. But it is not ayatollahs that have come to power in the U.S. Moreover, Trump seems determined to fight radical Islamic terrorism, the greatest threat to the dignity and freedom of women all around the world. That already shows his commitment to liberty -- especially liberty for women.
Radical Islamic ideology is a universal threat. Wherever it is weakened or defeated, this helps liberate victims in other parts of the world, as well.
To so many persecuted peoples in the Middle East, Trump's presidency represents hope for a positive change.
On November 7, the Yezidi Human Rights Organization-International issued a public statement titled "Yezidis look forward to a Trump presidency to help them wipe out ISIS." A Yazidi woman in Iraq has recently named her newborn baby boy "Trump."
The women's march, for all the good intentions on the part of many, violated the core principle of human rights: "The worst first."
Sadly, many of the organizers and participants of the march chose to stand by and ignore women being tortured and exterminated by Islamic terrorists, and in other parts of the world, not being able to receive an education or even leave the house without the permission of a male.
If only these women felt as motivated to protest about the enslavement, rape and torture of Yazidi women and children, as about the cost of tampons.
Acting like self-serving, delusional fanatics, whose sheer hatred of an elected president blinds their eyes to the real problems of the world, does not help anyone. There have been just as many people who might have hated other presidents.
Let us with our actions remind women in the Middle East that we take their plight to heart.
Uzay Bulut, a journalist born and raised a Muslim in Turkey, is currently based in Washington D.C.