This is the story of Farida Abbas, a Yazidi girl from Kocho village which is located south of the Sinjar Mountains in Iraq. She was 20 years old and the only daughter among several brothers. Farida was a good student living a normal and simple life in her village. Her father, Abbas, was a solider in the Iraqi army and her mother, Fahima, was a housekeeper. Their peaceful life was shattered forever when a group of terrorists attacked Sinjar city on August 3, 2014. Most of the Yazidis began running, with only the clothes they had on, toward the mountains, and those who lived north of the mountains began escaping to Kurdistan-Iraq through the Syrian border and Rabiha region. Kocho village and Hathmia village were more than 16 km. from the mountain and the residents were unable to take refuge there. Because of this, they decided to stay in their homes with the assurance from Islamic State that they would not be harmed. However, in the first few days many people were slaughtered because ISIS encountered slight resistance from the army in that area. Thus, ISIS controlled all of Shingal area.
On August 3, 2014, we heard that Islamic State had entered Sinjar.
We were at home, so very frightened.
People were unsure of what to do and decided to stay in their homes.
Some were saying nothing would happen to us and others did not have cars to escape. When ISIS reached our village, they asked us not to leave our houses, assuring us we would be safe. For the first three days they did nothing to us and only surrounded our village. They approached our mayor on the fourth day and asked him to convert to Islam. Not only did the mayor refuse, but the villagers did also. The next day ISIS took all our belongings, including any weapons, car keys and gold. They ordered all villagers to gather in the central plaza and then separated us: women, elders and children on one side and men on other.
They took all the females to the second floor of Kocho school and the men to the first floor. They started to take men by groups in cars and we did not know what happened to them, and they transported us by buses to a new building structure for the academic institution in Sulax village.
In that structure, they began to separate young girls and all small children from elderly women, forcibly separating clinging children from their mothers.
We were put in big buses and transported to Mosul. We spent one night there and in the early morning they transported me with 46 other girls to Raqqa in Syria.
ISIS members began coming every night in groups and choosing girls for themselves.
Anyone who refused to go with them was beaten and forced to go with them anyway. One night they took me with another girl from my village (Jilan Ibrahim) to a house in which there were already two other girls.
I tried to commit suicide that night with a small piece of glass from the window, with which I tried to cut the veins in my hands. I lost consciousness and when I woke up I was in a doctor’s house, to which they had transported me along with Jilan. I stayed in the doctor’s house for five days and after that they took Jilan and me with four other girls to a house at the edge of Raqqa. I stole a cell phone from that house but there was no network there. We tried to escape twice from there but did not succeed. Later, they took us to a region called Shihitiat which is part of Dir Zor, where we stayed for 10 days. ISIS members were beating and raping us continually and treating us like animals. Because of the severe beatings, I was unable to walk.
After those 10 frightful and savage days, we were transported to inside Dir Zor. This house was near a Konikal gas factory and we were there for over two months. Although I was not able to walk or move, they did not stop beating or raping me. I pretended that I was a married woman, but they were dealing with me as if I were not. They were speaking in Arabic among themselves and were saying that if any of the girls could speak Arabic, they would take her to Libya.
That is why I did not speak Arabic for the entire time even though they beat me and told me they knew I could speak Arabic. I managed to deceive them and never spoke one word of Arabic.
Some days later they brought another girl from Kocho village. She knew me and out of fear, she told them I knew how to speak and write Arabic. At that time, they treated me in a very harsh way. They put iron handcuffs on my hands and feet and raped and beat me with a whip. They beat me with an iron clothes hanger on my head, and internal bleeding caused blood to seep into my eyes and I could not see out of one of them for two months. My dear friend Jilan lost the sight of both eyes for two months also. I tried to commit suicide a total of seven times while I was with them.
One day, while the men were sleeping, Jilan and I took their guns and we were going to shoot them. But they took the gun from me before I was able to shoot and another pushed Jilan so she was unable to kill anyone. After that they began to punish us even more severely.
Jilan was so beautiful that an ISIS man said he would marry her. They tried to separate Jilan and me but we insisted we were sisters. Another time, we were all gathered and they told us that if anyone escaped, they would bring their mothers and punish them instead and kill all their families. That is why I pretended that my father and mother were my uncle and aunt.
There were lots of caravans in the Konikal factory. We were living in two caravans and ISIS members in others. We had stolen a SIM card and cell phone from ISIS members and we called a man from Kocho village (Khalaf Abbas) who was in Germany and came back to Iraq after what happened to his village. We told Khalaf about where we were and with his connections he was able to call people for help. But he was informed it was too difficult to get us because we were surrounded by ISIS. There was an iron fence around our caravans and one day there were only three ISIS guards. So five other girls and I were able to reach the yard and escape through a small hole in the iron fence. There was a 10-year old girl with us who was so scared and tired but we keep running until we were able to be far from that place. It was raining during the night and our situation was horrific. We traveled during the day and hid when ISIS cars passed by us.
We eventually reached a secluded house and discovered no one was inside.
We attempted to get in three times but an iron piece fell down and made a loud sound. We ran again out of fright and then came upon an empty home, entered and settled in for that night. The next day we came upon another house in which there was a family. They offered to hide us in the house if we paid money.
We called Khalaf again, who gave us the number of a man from Hasaka. He negotiated with the people in that house and agreed to hide us. The man in that house happened to recognize us and told us that we were in that gas factory. I asked if he was with ISIS but he replied that he only worked in that factory. Another man arrived and gave the house owner money and took us by a car (lorry) to Hasaka, where we stayed in Mustafa’s house for several days. Later, they took us to Dirik region which is a triangle conjunction of Iraq, Syria and Turkey.
Finally, we were delivered to the Kurdish army in Kurdistan-Iraq and we saw the sun shining again after three months of deadly life with ISIS.
When I arrived at the camp which would be my new home, none of my family was there except my younger brother, Safwan, who had been rescued from a mass grave. I learned my mother, father, older brother, Darvan, and two younger brothers, Sifyan and Kamiran, had been captured by ISIS. It was a horrific time until my mother and both younger brothers were rescued several months later. They had been prisoners for over nine months. Eventually, we took the opportunity to travel to Germany, away from ISIS and all our misery. As of this writing, there still is no news about the fate of my father and my older brother.
Andrea C. Hoffmann, a professional writer, helped Farida Abbas write The Girl that Defeated the IS: Farida Abbas, which has been published in six different languages.
Dawood Saleh Ahmed is a Yazidi activist and writer.