After Years of ISIS Sex Slavery, Escapees Are Literally Immobilized by Trauma

 Iraqi civilians flee the Islamic State controlled Old City of west Mosul on June 23, 2017. Image via Getty.
Iraqi civilians flee the Islamic State controlled Old City of west Mosul on June 23, 2017. Image via Getty.

Three years after 6,470 Yazidi women were abducted by ISIS on Sinjar mountain in 2014, a reported 3,410 are still missing. The New York Times has been documenting the stories of escapees, who have been held in what reporter Rukmini Callimachi described as “a detailed bureaucracy of sex slavery, including sales contracts notarized by the ISIS-run Islamic courts.”


A new report details the immediate impacts of nearly unimaginable trauma. “Women rescued in the first two years after ISIS overran their ancestral homeland came home with infections, broken limbs and suicidal thoughts,” Callimachi notes. But those returning after three years’ captivity are “displaying extraordinary signs of psychological injury.”

From the Times:

The shock expresses itself in women and girls who sleep for days on end, seemingly unable to wake up, said Hussein Qaidi, the director of the abductee rescue bureau. “Ninety percent of the women coming out are like this,” he said, for at least part of the time after their return.

Although many refugees are displaying heroic resilience in the face of so much suffering, the evidence of trauma in the world’s massive refugee population is increasingly extreme; a doctor, for example, created a new term for the level of PTSD experienced by Syrian children—“human devastation syndrome.”

Souhayla, a 16-year-old who was captured when she was 13, was raped by seven different ISIS fighters before an airstrike—which killed both her captor and the other Yazidi girl held with her—allowed her to escape. But after she was reunited with her family at the Shariya refugee camp in Iraq, “almost two weeks passed before she was able to stand for more than a few minutes, her legs unsteady,” the Times reports.

Callimachi described some of their reporting process in a series of tweets:


Read the whole story here.

Ellie is a freelance writer and former senior writer at Jezebel. She is pursuing a master's degree in science journalism at Columbia University in the fall.


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