Mideast Iraq Yazidis
Mideast Iraq Yazidis

A human rights group says Islamic State militants are using "rape as a weapon" against ethnic Yazidi women seized from northern Iraq in what amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Amnesty International issued a report Tuesday detailing accounts from interviews with 42 women and girls who managed to escape the militants and several others who are still being held.

It describes both physical and psychological torture, including rape and other sexual violence. Several escapees said the treatment they went through is likely what drove a 19-year-old woman to commit suicide and others to attempt to kill themselves.

Donatella Rovera, the senior crisis response advisor for Amnesty, described the physical and psychological toll as "catastrophic," and said even those who have escaped the Islamic State group are still "deeply traumatized."

The report said the group has not tried to hide its actions, but rather uses its "brutal" and "ruthless" reputation to make others fearful.

Amnesty International is calling on the United Nations, humanitarian agencies and Kurdish authorities to ensure that those subjected to sexual violence have access to adequate and timely care.

Islamic State fighters attacked the Yazidis in August, forcing thousands of people to flee to Sinjar Mountain where they remained trapped for months. Kurdish peshmerga forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes broke the siege on Saturday and have been fighting the militants in the neighboring town.

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