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.”
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.
“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.
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“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.
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.
“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.