ISIL makes life hell for women and girls throughout Iraq, said U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell.
The situation for minorities is especially grim. Thousands of Yezidi girls and women were abducted by ISIL last summer. Throughout their captivity, many of these girls, some as young as seven or eight, were repeatedly raped and forced to marry ISIL fighters. Several said they had attempted suicide during their captivity or witnessed suicide attempts to avoid rape, forced marriage, or forced religious conversion. Some have been sold as slaves and transported to various locations in Iraq, Syria and beyond.
ISIL has publicly acknowledged enslaving women and children claiming in its on-line English-language magazine that it was reviving a custom justified under its interpretation of Sharia law.
The hundreds of women and girls who have returned from ISIL captivity continue to suffer, said Ambassador Russell, following a recent visit to Iraq. Iraqis she met with characterized some of the returned women and girls as “emotionally broken,” some still wearing the same clothes they had on during captivity. The Yezidi women and girls who escaped ISIL still face enormous challenges and trauma from their experience.
The medical and psychosocial services available to meet the growing need of the displaced community are limited. The United States has taken action to help — providing both humanitarian aid and other assistance spanning several sectors. The United States is also committed to continuing its work with the government of Iraq, non-governmental organization partners, and the UN to address the needs of those who are affected by ISIL’s aggression in Iraq.
But the needs are huge and the international community needs to do more to protect and better serve women and girls affected by the conflict, said Ambassador Russell.
The ultimate answer is to defeat and destroy ISIL—-and support the women and men of Iraq in rebuilding their country. The United States and Iraq remain committed to that goal by continuing U.S. and coalition airstrikes, and enhancing Iraqi defense capabilities through training and equipment.