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UN: Islamic State Sex Abuse Victims Need Care, Protection, Justice

FILE - Yazidi sisters, who escaped from captivity by Islamic State (IS) militants, sit in a tent at Sharya refugee camp on the outskirts of Duhok province, Iraq, July 3, 2015.

United Nations Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein is urging the Iraqi government to provide help to thousands of women and girls who have been raped and sexually abused by Islamic State fighters.

A report by the U.N. Human Rights office and U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq describes the horrific forms of sexual violence inflicted by Islamic State fighters upon women and girls, particularly those from the Yazidi and other minority communities.

Human Rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell says violations committed by IS, (also known as ISIL) include rape and sexual assault, forced displacement, abduction, slavery, and forced religious conversion.

“U.N. High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has said that the physical, mental, and emotional injuries inflicted by ISIL are almost beyond comprehension and that if victims are to rebuild their lives, and those of their children, they need both justice and redress,” she said.

Throssell tells VOA it is not possible to know exactly how many women and girls have been subjected to this abuse. But, she says data from the Yazidi community indicate widespread sexual violence by IS, running into the thousands.

As of July 2, the United Nations reports more than 3,500 women and girls and nearly 3,000 men and boys from the Yazidi community have been abducted. It says thousands more remain unaccounted for.

Throssell says some of the victims have recounted painful stories to colleagues on the ground.

“There is an awful lot of psychological trauma and that is why in the report, the emphasis is put both on material support — helping women rebuild their lives, find work, have money, in order to be able to buy food. But, also that they need counseling, psycho-social support,” she said.

The report finds the Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government have taken some positive steps to meet the needs of those sexually abused by IS. But, it adds the criminal justice system is largely failing to ensure protection for the victims.