Under the pseudonym Shirin, a young Yazidi woman writes about her martyrdom at the hands of IS © Tobias Hase
"To feel safe – we have to learn that again first."This is how the young Yazidi wrote the chapter "Germany" in her book. She has lived through martyrdom under the IS militia, torture, rape. She wants the world to know about it.
The author, who publishes under the pseudonym Shirin, sits on 25.01.2016 in Munich at a table with her book "I Remain a Daughter of Light" on it. The Yazidi and Kurdish woman was abducted, tortured and raped by IS terrorist militias in northern Iraq, but then managed to escape. She wrote down her story together with a German journalist.
She was young, smart and sometimes a bit cheeky. She wanted to study law. And perhaps marry the prospective teacher Telim. The world seemed open to her. That's when IS terrorists attacked her village of Hardan in northern Iraq near the Syrian border. Shirin, then 17, was kidnapped, abused, sold and kept as a sex slave. She managed to escape in an adventurous way.
"We did not recognize the danger"
Now the young Kurdish woman of the Yazidi faith is 19 years old, lives in Germany and reports under the pseudonym "Shirin" about her ordeal and that of her fellow fighters. "I remain a daughter of light," is the name of the book in which she tells her story, written up by journalist Alexandra Cavelius.
3. August 2014, around 7.00 o'clock. "We were so blind, we didn't see the danger," she writes about that day that destroyed the lives of her family and other Yazidis in the Sinjar region. They had believed what the IS fighters said: if you become Muslims, nothing will happen to you. They set out too late to escape, the village was surrounded – there was no escape. Together with hundreds of other women and children, Shirin, her mother, her younger brother and her two sisters are abducted.
Girls are sold, boys made into IS fighters
Shirin is separated from them, sold as a slave, tortured and forced to have sex again and again. "Only after two months they took off their masks. That's when we looked into the faces of all our Arab neighbors," she writes. A suicide attempt. An abortion. With nine men she is "married" in these months. The last one helps her escape.
More than 7000 women and children were taken hostage by IS after the massacre; according to the Central Council of Yezidis in Germany, around 2500 have been released so far. The fates are similar to Shirin's. "Girls are considered full women from the age of seven," says Holger Geisler of the Central Council. Men are murdered, boys are turned into IS fighters, girls are sold and raped.
"Perfidious strategy of the IS"
Shirin came to Germany. Baden-Wurttemberg has launched a project to take in and treat up to a thousand women and children in need of protection. Trauma expert Jan Kizilhan cares for Shirin and other women. He comments on the book, provides background information. Again and again he travels to northern Iraq, caring for victims.
"Behind the rapes is a perfidious strategy of the IS militias. Strictly conservative organized sections of the Yezidis see the loss of virginity by young girls as a dishonor to them and the entire family. (…) To make matters worse, the men feel they have failed in protecting their family." Rape as a means of warfare.
Now Shirin sits in Munich, a bright room near the university. Pale, her dark hair tied back. Light blouse, dark pants, brown scarf. Exhausted. Interviews. Again and again questions. Her interpreter Nalin Farec, also a Yazidi, holds her hand under the table.
Shirin's family, so far alive, would be in danger if their identities were revealed. "I am doing this for my people. So that people never forget what IS has done to the Yazidis. That there are still many trapped and in refugee camps," she says in her native Kurmanji. Nalin translated. On their wrists both wear traditional red and white ribbons. The tormentors tore away Shirin's own, Nalin gave her a new one.
Father in refugee, mother in captivity
Shirin has described herself as a fun-loving young woman. Earlier, before that 3. August. "I'm not who I used to be," she says today. "People who know me say: she has turned around 180 degrees. I didn't know before that I was so fearful. Sometimes I get scared when just a car drives by."
Almost every other day she talks on the phone with her father in one of the refugee camps. "As long as you're doing well, I'm doing well," he had recently said. Just got a message that the mother is alive – in IS captivity in Syria. There is no trace of both brothers and both sisters. The presumption: the older brother dead. The younger in a camp to be made an IS fighter.
Houses of the Yazidis destroyed
And Shirin, the law school, perhaps in Germany? "I don't really trust myself." Paralegal is the narrower target. "I would like to get my driver's license and drive a car." She does not like buses. She and her fellow Yazidis were abducted in buses, crammed for hours, close to suffocation.
Shirin longs for the bread of her homeland. At home in Hardan, it was stuck to the stones in the oven and baked that way. Shirin and her interpreter rave about it together. Homesick. But IS has razed the Yazidis' homes to the ground or mined them, contaminated the drinking water. Hardan is a ghost town today.