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Yazidi Woman, having escaped from ISIS, Awaits Aid

But on her way to freedom outside the Iraqi town of Hawija, Bashar, 18, lost her sight in a blast from a land mine explosion. Her face was severely disfigured

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Lamiya Hachi Bashar
Lamiya Hachi Bashar, VOA

May 7, 2016:
When Lamiya Hachi Bashar escaped the house of an Islamic State fighter in Iraq in mid-April, she thought months of enslavement and IS terror were finally over.

But on her way to freedom outside the Iraqi town of Hawija, Bashar, 18, lost her sight in a blast from a land mine explosion. Her face was severely disfigured.

“Her right eye is pretty much gone, but her left eye can recover,” said Kurdish doctor Husain Bahrari, who treated her. “She also suffers from extensive facial laceration.”

Lamiya Hachi Bashar
Lamiya Hachi Bashar, Youtube

IS violence

Bashar, one of the thousands of Yazidis who have suffered under systematic violence by IS, is facing a bleak future. Her doctor told VOA that her complex injuries require treatment that is not available in Iraq.

“There needs to be a plastic surgery quickly to avoid scars that are unrecoverable,” Bahrari said. “A young girl her age needs that.”

But Bashar is waiting to get an entry visa to Germany and is facing uncertainty about who is going to pay for medical procedures, a German charity attempting to help her said.

She’s ‘traumatized’

“We are trying to get her to Germany, but the visa process is slow and we’re limited on resources,” said Mirza Dinnayi, head of the German-based Air Bridge Iraq. “The poor girl is traumatized and needs to resettle somewhere else. But this is not possible now.”

When IS attacked Bashar’s village of Kojo in August 2014, she and 12 members of her family were taken prisoner.

Around 5,000 Yazidi men and women were captured by the militants that summer. Some 2,000 of them managed to escape or were smuggled out of IS’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria, activists say.

Related Article: ISIS eyes on the land of Tagore and Nazrul (Bangladesh)

“I was kept in a prison with my family for one month before they took me and my two sisters along with hundreds of the girls to [IS capital] Raqqa,” Bashar told VOA.

Lamiya Hachi Bashar before she was taken into slavery by Islamic State in 2014.
Lamiya Hachi Bashar before she was taken into slavery by Islamic State in 2014 (Photo courtesy of Bashar’s uncle, Idris Kojo)

VOA could not independently verify Bashar’s story.

While in IS captivity, Bashar said she was sold five times as a sex slave and faced mental and physical abuse. One IS leader in Mosul forced her into making suicide belts and preparing car bombs.

Marriage refused

IS fighters were coming many times to take them,” she said. “He [one IS militant] asked me to marry him. … I told him, ‘I won’t do this and I won’t help you.He hit me with hoses and floor squeegee handles. There was nothing left he didn’t use to beat me.”

Bashar was later sold to an IS doctor in the Iraqi town of Hawija, where she met two other Yazidi girls, Almas, 8, and Katherine, 20. They were able to secretly contact their relatives, who arranged with a middleman to facilitate their escape.

In mid-April, the girls started their dangerous journey to escape IS slavery to Iraqi Kurdistan. An Arab family also accompanied the girls, Bashar said.

Their facilitator took the group out of the city in a car, Bashar said. Their guide told them to avoid land mines that IS placed to stop people from fleeing.

“Katherine stepped on a mine, and all I saw after that was a bright light in front of my eyes,” Bashar said. “I called Katherine and Almas but all I heard was an ‘ah’ from Katherine.”

The girls died at the scene, their bodies left in a field. Bashar, who was injured, does not remember how she was rescued. Family members say her guide took her to the Kurdish Peshmerga.

Lamiya Hachi Bashar before she was taken into slavery by Islamic State in 2014. (Photo courtesy of Bashar’s uncle, Idris Kojo)

After initial limited medical treatments, Bashar is waiting at the home of relatives.

The German group trying to help her said it could take six months before Bashar can get a resettlement visa.

“To avoid further delays, we have applied for a three-month treatment visa, which I hope will be ready soon,” charity worker Dinnayi said.

Future medical care

When she is in Germany, there will be donation campaigns to get her the funds she needs for medical care.

However, “I can’t say how long this will take,” Dinnayi said.

The mayor of the Yazidi town of Sinjar, Mahma Khalil, said the Kurdistan region has done its best to help thousands of Yazidi victims but has limited resources.

“We ask the U.N., humanitarian organizations and other countries to help them recover,” he said.

Despite her trauma, Bashar remains optimistic and grateful.

I would rather stay here blind than being with them [IS] sighted,” she told VOA.

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White House: Judge’s Decision Halting Travel Ban ‘Dangerously Flawed’

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Travel Ban
A sign for International Arrivals is shown at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle.VOA

The White House is reacting furiously to a federal judge blocking President Donald Trump’s latest executive Travel Ban order that would have banned entry to travelers from several countries beginning Wednesday.

“Today’s dangerously flawed district court order undercuts the president’s efforts to keep the American people safe and enforce minimum security standards for entry into the United States,” said a White House statement issued Tuesday shortly after Judge Derrick Watson ruled against restrictions on travelers from six countries the Trump administration said could not provide enough information to meet U.S. security standards.

The travel ban order would have barred to various degrees travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

Watson’s temporary restraining order does not interfere with restrictions on North Korea and Venezuela.

Justice Department defends White House

The Justice Department “will vigorously defend the president’s lawful action,” the White House said, contending its proclamation restricting travel was issued after an extensive worldwide security review.

The Justice Department called the ruling incorrect and said it will appeal the decision “in an expeditious manner.”

Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said: “While we will comply with any lawful judicial order, we look forward to prevailing in this matter upon appeal.”

Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke
Acting Director of Homeland Security Elaine Duke testifies before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

No change for North Korea, Venezuela

The new travel order “suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than 150 million nationals from six specified countries would be ‘detrimental to the United States,'” Judge Watson wrote in his opinion.

The White House argues that its restrictions “are vital to ensuring that foreign nations comply with the minimum security standards required for the integrity of our immigration system and the security of our nation.”

Officials in the White House are expressing confidence that further judicial review will uphold the president’s action.

Hawaii involved for third time

Consular officials have been told to resume “regular processing of visas” for people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, according to a State Department official.

The suit on which Judge Watson ruled on Tuesday was filed by the state of Hawaii, the Muslim Association of Hawaii and various individuals.

“This is the third time Hawaii has gone to court to stop President Trump from issuing a travel ban that discriminates against people based on their nation of origin or religion,” said Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin. “Today is another victory for the rule of law.”(VOA)

 

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Syrian Militia: End Is Near for Islamic State in Raqqa

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Syria ISIS
Smoke rises near the stadium where the Islamic State militants are holed up after an airstrike by coalition forces at the frontline, in Raqqa, Syria. voa

Islamic State is on the verge of defeat in Syria’s Raqqa and the city may finally be cleared of the jihadists Saturday or Sunday, the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia told Reuters Saturday.

The U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State said around 100 of the jihadist group’s fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and had been “removed from the city,” but it still expected difficult fighting “in the days ahead.”

It did not say how the fighters had been removed or where the fighters had been taken.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said remaining Islamic State fighters were being transported out of Raqqa by bus under a deal between Islamic State, the U.S.-led coalition and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the YPG. There was no immediate comment on that report from the coalition or the SDF.

Fighting since June

Civilians who escaped from Islamic State
Civilians who escaped from Islamic State militants rest at a mosque in Raqqa, Syria. voa

The SDF, backed by coalition airstrikes and special forces, has been battling since June to oust Islamic State from Raqqa city, formerly its de facto capital in Syria and a base of operations where it planned attacks against the West.

The final defeat of Islamic State at Raqqa will be a major milestone in efforts to roll back the group’s self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, where earlier this year the group was driven from the city of Mosul.

“The battles are continuing in Raqqa city. Daesh (Islamic State) is on the verge of being finished. Today or tomorrow the city may be liberated,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud told Reuters by telephone.

In emailed comments to Reuters, coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon said about 100 Islamic State fighters had surrendered in Raqqa in the last 24 hours and were “removed from the city,” without giving further details.

“We still expect difficult fighting in the days ahead and will not set a time for when we think (Islamic State) will be completely defeated in Raqqa,” he said, adding that around 85 percent of Raqqa had been liberated as of Oct. 13.

Some civilians escape

Around 1,500 civilians had been able to safely make it to SDF lines within the last week, he added.

Omar Alloush, a member of a civilian council set up to run Raqqa, told Reuters late Friday that efforts were under way to secure the release of civilians and “a possible way to expel terrorist elements from Raqqa province,” without giving further details.

An activist group that reports on Raqqa, Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, said on its Facebook page Saturday that dozens of buses had entered Raqqa city overnight, having traveled from the northern Raqqa countryside.

The Observatory said Syrian Islamic State fighters and their families had left the city, and buses had arrived to evacuate remaining foreign fighters and their families. It did not say where they would be taken.

During the more than six-year Syrian war, the arrival of buses in a conflict zone has often signaled an evacuation of combatants and civilians.

The campaign against Islamic State in Syria is now focused on its last major foothold in the country, the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, which neighbors Iraq.
Islamic State is facing separate offensives in Deir el-Zour by the SDF on one hand, and Syrian government forces supported by Iranian-backed militia and Russian airstrikes on the other. (VOA)

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Kurdish Red Crescent: IS Attacks Kill at Least 50 in East Syria

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Syrian Democratic Forces
A female fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces stands near a military tank in the village of Abu Fas, Hasaka province, Syria. voa

Islamic State suicide attackers killed at least 50 people in a triple car bomb attack on Thursday among a group of refugees in northeast Syria, a medical source in the Kurdish Red Crescent said.

A large number of people were also injured by the three car bombs, the source said.

The attack took place at Abu Fas, near the border of Deir el-Zour and Hasaka provinces, said a war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which said earlier that at least 18 people had been killed.

The dead included refugees fleeing the fighting in Deir el-Zour as well as members of the Kurdish Asayish security force, the observatory reported. Syrian state television said dozens had been killed in the attack.

The jihadist group has lost swaths of its territory in both Syria and Iraq this year and is falling back on the towns and villages of the Euphrates valley southeast of Deir el-Zour.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias is pressing it from the north, and a rival offensive by the Syrian army, supported by allies including Iran and Russia, is attacking it from the west.

On Wednesday, Islamic State said it had carried out an attack in the capital, Damascus, where three suicide bombers detonated their devices near a police headquarters, killing two people and wounding six.

Aid agencies have warned that the fighting in eastern Syria is the worst in the country this year and that airstrikes have caused hundreds of civilian casualties.(VOA)