Officials Call for Rescue of Thousands of Yazidi Captives video player.


KHANKE, IRAQ — As Islamic State militants lost their territorial holdings in Iraq and Syria, VOA chronicled the events through the words of the victims, in a 12-part series called "Life Under Islamic State."

Now, three years later, we bring you voices of victims who were silenced until recently.  Officials estimate nearly 3,000 Yazidi people remain missing after being captured and enslaved by IS.

Maher was 6 years old, Fadya was 5, and their mother, Basse, was pregnant when they were all taken. In recent months, the children were rescued in Syria individually and brought back to Iraq. The family tells their story in their own words, translated into English and edited for clarity.

Basse: When my children were returned to me they didn't recognize anyone in the family.  They had been taught by Islamic State militants that Yazidis are infidels. My daughter, Fadya, said, "You are not my family. I don't know you."

But she did remember my name. 

When Basse's daughter Fadya was rescued and returned to her family a few months ago, she initially did not recognize her siblings and parents, pictured in Khanke, Kurdistan region, Iraq, Sept. 28, 2019. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
When Basse's daughter Fadya was rescued and returned to her family a few months ago, she initially did not recognize her siblings and parents, pictured in Khanke, Kurdistan region, Iraq, Sept. 28, 2019. (Heather Murdock/VOA)

Fadya: I also remembered how to speak Kurdish. At first with IS, they would tell me to come and pray in Arabic and I wouldn't understand. Then I learned.

Now me and my brother Maher speak Arabic to each other when we don't want other people to understand us. We talk about what it was like living with IS.

Maher: I remember a lot of what happened when I lived with IS. When people asked me who I was, I told them I was the son of my owner, Abu Jaber.

My job was to bring groceries for his wife. But then during the final battles in Baghouz there was a water shortage, so I had collect water. My job was to carry a 20-liter can of water to the house after morning prayers.

If I stayed awake after the prayer ended at 5 a.m., I would carry only one can of water. If I fell asleep, Abu Jaber would beat me and then make me carry two or three.

Maher plays video games as his brother looks on, in Khanke, Kurdistan region, Iraq, Sept. 28, 2019. The boys were kidnapped nearly five years ago and sold to separate buyers. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
Maher plays video games as his brother looks on, in Khanke, Kurdistan region, Iraq, Sept. 28, 2019. The boys were kidnapped nearly five years ago and sold to separate buyers. (Heather Murdock/VOA)

One time one of his friends took me with him to the countryside, saying he had four infidels. They shot the four men in their heads. Then they cut their heads off while they filmed it for their publications. 

But I was not scared, even when they cut the heads off. I'm not afraid of blood. 

I was only afraid of the man who owned me, Abu Jaber. He beat me if I didn't pray. He beat me if I broke something or didn't do a task. He never beat me without a reason but he did beat me every day for three years. How can a person not be afraid of such a man?

I wanted to tell him to sell me, but I was afraid it would make him beat me more. And when he finally did tell me that he was going to sell me, I cried.

If he didn't beat me so often, I would have loved him. Sometimes I really did love him.

Officials are still searching for more than 2,900 Yazidi men, women and children who they believe to be alive after being captured by IS, pictured in Khanke, Kurdistan region, Iraq, Sept. 29, 2019. (Heather Murdock/VOA)
Officials are still searching for more than 2,900 Yazidi men, women and children who they believe to be alive after being captured by IS, pictured in Khanke, Kurdistan region, Iraq, Sept. 29, 2019. (Heather Murdock/VOA)

Fadya: I didn't have friends because I stayed in the house, just cleaning and cooking. My first owner called me Nour. Then he was killed in an airstrike and I was sold to a man who's wife had left him. That man called me Robar.

I met two other girls, Marin and Hayat who were Yazidi. They had been trained by IS and told me never return to Yazidis because they are infidels who will kill us. 

Hayat died from an airstrike and Marin died later. When I was brought to the orphanage, I told them I was Tunisian.

Basse: The children were all given different names by IS. They named the baby I had in captivity Zainab and sold her. She was rescued and brought back to me only a few months ago. I named her Mukhaban. It means "sorrow."

When IS took child slaves, they re-named them. This girl, pictured in Khanke, Kurdistan region, Iraq, on Sept. 28, 2019, was born in captivity. Her mother later gave her the name Mukhaban, which means "sorrow." (Heather Murdock/VOA)
When IS took child slaves, they re-named them. This girl, pictured in Khanke, Kurdistan region, Iraq, on Sept. 28, 2019, was born in captivity. Her mother later gave her the name Mukhaban, which means "sorrow." (Heather Murdock/VOA)

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