The Islamic state still holds nearly 2000 Iraqi women as slaves, most of them Yazidis, and more than 300,000 Yazidis are still displaced almost two years after the group swept into the northern Iraqi district of Sinjar, according to a new United Nations report.
Sinjar district was home to more than 300,000 people — mostly Yazidis but also other ethnic minorities — before August 3, 2014, when Islamic State conquered the district, and at least 200,000 people fled north toward the safety of Kurdistan. Approximately 55,000 others fled to the barren slopes of Mt. Sinjar, which Islamic State surrounded. As temperatures passed 100 degrees, dozens perished before US airstrikes and Kurdish Peshmerga could open a corridor to allow the civilians to escape on August 8.
The UN now estimates that between 2,500 and 5,500 Yazidis were killed during Islamic State's offensive and subsequent occupation of the area's towns and villages. The group also abducted around 6,300 Yazidis, including 3,537 women and 2,859 men, and while many escaped, about 3,800 remained in captivity as of May 2016, the UN reported, including 1,935 women.
Testimony from Yazidis — an esoteric religious group that blends ancient Persian and pre-Islamic beliefs — and other ethnic minorities in the area included "accounts of systematic and widespread killings, sexual violence and sexual slavery, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, forced conversions and forced displacement, among other abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law," the report said.
Women told the UN that Islamic State militants had sold them multiple times, and "snatched their young children and babies from them."
"One woman told how she was sold to a 26-year-old Syrian ISIL member who raped her regularly for at least 15 days, threatening to kill her daughters if she did not submit," the report said.
The report also contains many accounts of Islamic State killing captured men. "In one instance, up to 600 men were reportedly killed in Tel Afar District," the report said. "In other instances, members of the Yazidi community were forced to convert to Islam or be killed."
The report states that the violations and abuses committed by Islamic State may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
"Thousands of men, women and children have been killed or are missing, or remain in captivity where they are subjected to unspeakable sexual and physical abuse," said Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq, Ján Kubiš. "Faced with such evidence, it is of paramount importance that the perpetrators of these heinous acts are fully and properly held to account."
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