|Date: Apr 26, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Yazidis to accept children of Daesh rape into community|
ERBIL, Iraq: The children of Yazidi women raped by Daesh (ISIS) men will be welcomed into the minority faith, a community leader said Thursday, allowing women taken as slaves by the militant group to return to Iraq from Syria.
Eido Baba Sheikh, the son of the Yazidi spiritual leader Baba Sheikh, said the children of the formerly enslaved women will be treated as members of the faith, resolving one of the most difficult questions facing the community since Daesh's 2014 campaign to try to exterminate the minority. Thousands of women and girls were forced into sexual slavery when the extremists attacked Yazidi communities in northwestern Iraq.
But the community shunned the women returning from captivity with children, a reflection of the deeply held Yazidi traditions to view outsiders with suspicion as a response to centuries of persecution.
U.S.-backed Kurdish forces defeated the last fragments of Daesh's self-styled "caliphate" in Syria in March, raising the possibility that thousands of missing Yazidi women and children might be found and reunited with their families.
Even so, some 3,000 Yazidis are still missing. Many of the children enslaved by the militants in 2014 were separated from their parents and given to Daesh families for rearing. Boys were pressed into the militants' cub scouts, given military training and indoctrinated in extremist ideology.
Officials at the Beit Yazidi foundation in Kurdish-administered northeastern Syria said Yazidi women with children who could have returned to Iraq were choosing to stay in Syria instead in order not to be separated from their children.
Other women gave their young ones up for adoption to find acceptance among their community.
The Yazidi Supreme Spiritual Council issued a decree Wednesday welcoming the survivors of slavery, and their children, into the Yazidi community.
Murad Ismael, a founder of the global Yazidi charity Yazda, said it will nevertheless take time for the community in Iraq to accept the mothers and their children because of the stigma of rape.
"It will take a couple of years for the community to digest this fully," he said.
He said many women and children will have to seek resettlement in other countries, some to escape the stigma of their situation, and to find psychosocial services to heal after the trauma of slavery.
The community sent two representatives to search for Yazidi women and children in the camps in northeastern Syria, where tens of thousands of civilians who survived the Daesh caliphate are waiting to be returned to their places of origin, Eido Baba Sheikh said.
He said it is believed that there could be Yazidi children among foreign or Daesh families in the camps, a result of the sale of Yazidis under the caliphate. Complicating the search will be that many of the children may have never learned to identify as Yazidis, or to speak Kurmanji, the language of the community. Women and older children may have started to identify with their captors as well, confounding search efforts.
And though the community will recognize the children of Yazidi survivors as Yazidis, they will still face legal difficulties in Iraq, Eido Baba Sheikh said. Under the country's family laws, a child is registered under the nationality and religion of their father, and it is unclear whether Iraq will allow Yazidi survivors to register their children as Iraqi Yazidis when there are questions about the children's patrimony.
Also Thursday, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish regional government asked for continued U.S. support to allow Iraqis displaced by the war with Daesh to return to their homes, according to a State Department statement about a call between Barzani and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.
Iraq's Kurdish region hosts more than 1 million displaced people, including many of the 200,000 Yazidis forced to flee their homes when Daesh militants attacked their communities in 2014.