Yazidi refugees stand behind fences in the southern Turkish town of Midyat.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – When ISIS began its Yazidi genocide in Iraq in August, 2014, Marwa Al Aliko knew something terrible was going to happen.
One morning, along with her parents and seven siblings, Aliko, then 21 years old, tried to escape from their home, only to be caught – along with 100 other people – by ISIS terrorists.
“The ISIS fighters took us captive and put us in a small room,” she told the audience at an event held by the Israeli mission to the United Nations on Thursday. “We were 52 women. Every night the men would come to us and do as they pleased. After a few days one of the men bought me and my two sisters and took us to Syria.
“Ten days later they separated us and I was left alone. One of the ISIS leaders bought me and another girl and told us that we were now Muslims.
I refused and told him that I would only listen to him if he reunited me with my sisters.
He beat me many times and did terrible things to me. I thought about suicide. They continued to move us from place to place until one day I saw an opportunity and was able to escape.”
Aliko later managed to escape from captivity and slavery with the help of strangers and an uncle. She still doesn’t know what happened to the men.
“I miss everybody that was captured that day, but the person I miss most is my father,” she said through her interpreter.
Aliko now dreams of becoming a lawyer in order to fight in the legal arena for the Yazidi population.
She was invited by Israel’s UN mission to its sponsored event on the refugee crisis, which focused mainly on trauma treatment for the Yazidi refugees who have escaped from ISIS and from the war in Syria and Iraq.
The event, initiated by the Mission’s UN Youth Delegate by Noga Levy, included the participation of the director of the UN refugee agency’s New York office Ninette Kelley, and Yotam Polizer of the Israeli NGO IsraAID, who presented the work his organization does with refugees in Greece and Iraq.
“For us the refugee crisis has also been an amazing opportunity to build bridges,” Polizer said. “With all the suffering from the conflict, it’s become an asset for us to develop trauma expertise. Expertise that we developed from our own trauma to help these people.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon, who opened the event, said that for him, “As a representative of Israel, the state of the Jewish people, the stories of these refugees are particularly powerful.”
“The Jewish people, in its long history knows the hardships of the refugee experience,” he said.
“So we feel a genuine solidarity with today’s refugees.”
Danon added that “many young Israelis, like young people all over the world, are driven by a sense of hope.
“We train our youth to go out into the world to make an impact and bring change. The youth represent the idealistic spirit and the hope of a better future for all,” he added. “We need your energy and your spirit to transform the world, so that young people like Marwa, young people who share the same dreams and the same hopes for the future, will have the same opportunity.”