Shafaq News/Almost 2,000 Yezidi children who have returned to their families after being held captive by the armed group calling itself Islamic State (ISIS) are facing a physical and mental health crisis, Amnesty International ( AI) warned in a new report published today.
The report also addresses the urgent need to end the enforced separation of women and their children born of sexual violence by ISIS members.
“Between 2014 and 2017, ISIS committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, and what the UN describes as genocide against the Yezidi community in Iraq. “
The 56-page report reveals the extensive challenges now faced by the estimated 1,992 children who have returned to their families after being abducted, tortured, forced to fight, raped and subjected to numerous other horrendous human rights abuses by IS.
“While the nightmare of their past has receded, hardships remain for these children. After enduring the horrors of war at an extremely young age, they now need urgent support from the national authorities in Iraq and the international community to build their future,” said Matt Wells, Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Deputy Director – Thematic Issues.
“Survivors of horrific crimes, these children now face a legacy of terror. Their physical and mental health must be a priority in the years ahead if they are to fully reintegrate into their families and community.” it added.
The report declares that “Many child survivors have returned from IS captivity with debilitating long-term injuries, illnesses or physical impairments. The most common mental health conditions experienced by these children include post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression. Symptoms and behaviors often displayed include aggression, flashbacks, nightmares, withdrawal from social situations, and severe mood swings.”
Humanitarian workers, mental health professionals and caregivers told Amnesty International about particular challenges for two groups of child survivors: former child soldiers and girls subjected to sexual violence.
Thousands of Yezidi boys captured by IS were starved, tortured and forced to fight. As a result, these former child soldiers are especially likely to suffer from serious health conditions or physical disabilities, such as lost arms or legs.
Yezidi boys are often isolated upon their return, as their families and communities struggle to acknowledge their experiences during captivity. They have often been subjected to intense propaganda, indoctrination and military training, deliberately intended to erase their former identities, language, and names.
Of the 14 former child soldiers interviewed, more than half told Amnesty International they had not received any form of support – whether psychosocial, health, financial, or otherwise – after their return.
Sahir, who was forcibly recruited at the age of 15, said: “I was forced to fight. I had to do it or die. I didn’t have any other options. It was out of my control. To survive, I did the fighting. It’s the worst thing that can happen to any human,”
Yezidi girls suffered a wide range of abuses in ISIS captivity, including sexual violence. Girl survivors of sexual violence suffer from a range of health issues, including traumatic fistulas, scarring, and difficulties conceiving or carrying a child to term.
Randa, a 14-year-old who was in ISIS captivity for five years, said: “I was a child when they made me marry. They made me suffer. I want my future to be better.”
“These children were systematically subjected to the horror of life under IS, and now they’ve been left to pick up the pieces. They must be given the support they desperately need to rebuild their lives as part of the Yezidi community’s future,” said Matt Wells.
He adds, ““Ahead of the sixth anniversary of the IS assault against Yezidis, the national authorities in Iraq and the international community must do all they can to ensure full reparation for the violations of these children’s rights, and to provide them with the support they are entitled to,” said Matt Wells.”