New book by Kurdish Yazidi author aims to teach Arabs of Islamic State brutality
Displaced Yazidi Kurds, fleeing the violence from Islamic State in the Yazidi Shingal area in northwest, August 2014. Photo: Reuters
DUHOK, Kurdistan region ‘Iraq’,— It is because he owes it to the dozens of Kurdish Yazidi women he has spoken to regularly who were captives of the Islamic State that Kurdish journalist Khidher Domle says he wrote down their stories into a book.
His book, The Black Death, has been published to coincide with the first anniversary of the occupation of the Yazidi region of Shingal by ISIS on August 3, 2014. It paints the “tragedy of Yazidi women in the grip of ISIS,” according to its subtitle.
Among journalists in the Kurdistan Region, Domle is one of the most active on the issue. He is a Yazidi himself, and offered shelter to thousands of his people who fled ISIS from the Sinjar region last year. He set up a team to organize and manage a relief initiative in his village Sharya near Duhok.
When UN-organizations started to set up camps, they initially passed Sharya over as the aid there was already organized so well.
From the beginning, Domle was in contact with captured women inside the self-proclaimed caliphate, who shared his phone number between them. Many of them he had not previously known. Secretly they would phone him, with details about their locations, which he would sometimes share with others to set up initiatives to free the women.
Although other journalists and aid workers also received these calls, months into the tragedy Domle was left as one of the few who still was phoned in the middle of the night, just to listen to the stories and the tears of the abducted women, he said.
“One of the women once said to me ‘When someone like you talked to us, we got new hope.’ Because of that I wrote the book. She said that no-one will ever understand what happened to her if he does not live inside that reality. The things we see from ISIS are inhuman and unbelievable,” he said.
Some of the women are still with ISIS, others he met after they escaped. “I try to follow up on their lives, to let people know they are ordinary people, just like themselves,” Domle said.
Domle, who is also an expert on peace building and a trainer on media and minorities, said he is the first to have covered the way ISIS planned the abductions. “How they started from August 3 in the early morning; how they collected the women, sent them to Talafar and Ba’aj and then to Mosul; how they distributed them to ISIS bases and how they gave the women to the foreign fighters as gifts,” he added.
He said he also wrote the book because most of the stories in the press just focus on how the Yazidi women were sexually abused in ISIS. “No one covered how the Yazidis’ own neighbors dealt with them. When they saw the Yazidi women were kidnapped, they took them also as sex slaves, beat them and sold them to others,” Domle said.
It is known that many Arab civilians in the Sinjar region joined ISIS, and took part in its campaign of killing, kidnapping and looting. Domle says that in some of the villages that are not yet liberated by the Kurdish Peshmerga, Yazidi women have been kept by local Arabs for around a year now.
From his contact with the women inside ISIS, Domle knows that civilians in Mosul also used the women as slaves. “Some families took them, and not the fighters,” he said.
The book furthers shows how the ISIS fighters deal with the women who succumbed to the pressure to convert to Islam. They often find out they were deceived. “I have stories that say conversion did not change anything for them, whatever ISIS promised,” Domle continued.
Domle chose to publish the first version of the book in Arabic. “I am sure very few of these details will be documented in Arabic. Up till now there are a lot of people in Arabic areas that do not believe that still some 3,000 women and children are in the hands of ISIS. Nor do they believe how ISIS used the religion just as an excuse to put the women into slavery, and to sell them for a mere hundred dollars,” he said.
He is working on making the book available in both Kurdish and English in the near future.
The title, The Black Death, comes from one of the women who are still in captivity. “One night she said: ‘I will never forget how we came into this tragedy below the black flag, in the black clothes, with the black beards. If one day I want to die, it will not be below the black,’ because in this black world of ISIS, her death would also be black, and she does not want that,” Domle said.
By Judit Neurink