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Yazidi Woman who Suffered 10 months as Sex Slave under Islamic State (ISIS) comes to Washington for Help

At least 9,900 of Iraq's Yazidis were killed or kidnapped in an IS massacre in 2014, according to international organizations

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FILE - Women hold a banner during a demonstration marking the first anniversary of Islamic State's surge on Yazidis of the town of Sinjar, in front of the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, August 3, 2015. VOA
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– by Rikar Hussein

May 29, 2017: 

A Yazidi woman who suffered for 10 months as a sex slave under the Islamic State group (IS) came to Washington to push for help for the traumatized, displaced Yazidi community in northern Iraq and the hundreds of others who remain in IS bondage.

Shireen Jardo, 25, met with several U.S. congressmen and federal officials along with Iraqi aid groups and media.

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“I told them to rescue our people and our land from IS,” Jardo said in an interview with VOA on Friday. “I asked them: ‘How much longer should we wait until we hear a word on our people who are still under IS?'”

Shireen Jardo talks about her enslavement by the Islamic State during an interview with Voice of America. She wears a poster with pictures of her three brothers and five other members of her extended family still missing in IS territory. Washington, D.C.,
Shireen Jardo talks about her enslavement by the Islamic State during an interview with Voice of America. She wears a poster with pictures of her three brothers and five other members of her extended family still missing in IS territory. Washington, D.C.. VOA

At least 9,900 of Iraq’s Yazidis were killed or kidnapped in an IS massacre in 2014, according to international organizations. While many Yazidis such as Jardo escaped, either through smuggling or ransom, rights organizations say about 2,500 Yazidis, mostly women and children, remain under IS captivity in Syria and Iraq. IS regards Yazidis as devil worshippers who have to convert to Islam or die.

Yazidi organizers say Jardo’s plight is emblematic of the broader suffering Yazidis have endured.

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“Her story is something everyone should hear,” said Nemam Ghafouri, the founder of Joint Help for Kurdistan-U.S., an American-Kurdish organization that supports displaced Yazidis including Jardo. “She was sold five times, each time for a dollar.”

When IS attacked Sinjar in August 2014, Jardo and 46 members of her family were taken as prisoners.

IS took them to its stronghold in Mosul.

“They separated me from my family and put me in a prison with 13 other young girls and two older women,”Jardo said.

Jardo was later taken with hundreds of women and girls to IS’s defacto capital of Raqqa in Syria where militants started pricing them based on their appearances as a preparation to be sold.

“One day an IS member approached me and told me I looked attractive with my gold tooth,” she said. “I pulled off that tooth right after he left and I was bleeding for hours afterwards.

As IS started taking young Yazidi girls to the marketplaces of Raqqa, Jardo says she used several ways to outsmart IS fighters.

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“I pretended to be completely mute and incapable of moving,” she said. “IS members did not believe me and started torturing me by using electric shocks and beating.”

As she attempted to keep up the ruse, “a group of IS fighters started firing guns around me and threatened to kill me if I did not talk,” Jardo said.

Ultimately, IS fighters were unable to put a high price on her because they believed that she was “a damaged good,” Jardo said.

But IS did not give up finding ways they could profit from her, Jardo said.

IS militants took her to a hospital in Mosul where she received unwanted surgery.

“I then screamed, ‘why do you want to kill me?'” she said, “They did not say a word and put me into sleep.”

When Jardo woke up, she found her stomach riddled with stitches.

“We don’t know why IS cut her stomach open,” said Katrina Kraemer, president of Joint Help for Kurdistan-U.S., who helped her get medical tests in Iraqi Kurdistan. “We can’t find that they removed any organs, so there is no explanation.”

Jardo said she was put into a house with some 300 disabled or sick people. She was later taken by some Mosul residents to a hospital for treatment after developing an infection from the surgery. The residents who helped her contacted smugglers, who took her to a refugee camp in the Iraqi Kurdish region.

There she became a rights advocate for hundreds of displaced Yazidis.

“With her recommendation, aid organizations provided 11 washing machines to women in the camp,” Ghafouri told VOA. “She also inspired Yazidi women to start a sisterhood program to share thoughts and ideas.”

Three of Jardo’s brothers are unaccounted for, she said.

“When Mosul was attacked, we were all thrilled thinking we will finally reunite with our families,” she said. “But Mosul is almost liberated now and we are still waiting for them to return.” (VOA)

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Emergence of Radical Political Groups Raises Concern in Pakistan

Concerns are being voiced about how a few radical groups with proven terror ties have been allowed to re-brand themselves as political parties.

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Rising concerns in Pakistan regarding radical terrorist groups establishing themselves as political parties. VOA
Rising concerns in Pakistan regarding radical terrorist groups establishing themselves as political parties. VOA
  • Tension in Pakistan increasing due to emergence of Radical Political Groups.
  • Extremist groups are gaining a footing in Country’s politics.
  • According to reports, goverment’s efforts are not enough to stop the emerging radicalism in Pakistan.

Concerns are being voiced in Pakistan about how a few radical groups with proven terror ties have been allowed to re-brand themselves as political parties.

Taj Haider, one of the prominent and founding members of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which has been in power five times since 1970, told VOA the country is again seeing the trend of extremist groups camouflaging themselves to enter into politics.

“Religion and politics cannot go hand in hand, but unfortunately this is our new reality. We have seen the recent by-elections in Lahore and Peshawar where militant-turned-political parties were able to mobilize people and gather votes,” Haider said. “And these so-called new political parties, with proven terror records, look determined to contest the upcoming elections in 2018.”

In a recent high-level party meeting presided by PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of Pakistan’s slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the government was sharply criticized on its inability to forcefully implement the National Action Plan and bar proscribed groups from entering the political sphere.

The National Action Plan is a 20-point strategy devised to combat extremism in 2015 that clearly states no banned groups can operate in the country by changing their names or identity.

Analysts say many other political parties are also agitated and wary about the recent political dynamic that has allowed radicalized groups to enter the political arena.

“The government has repeatedly said it will not allow the hardliners to enter into politics, but the reality is different, these parties are going into masses,” Rasul Baksh Raees, a prominent analyst from Pakistan told VOA.

“As long as these proscribed groups stick to their extreme ideologies and violence, they will be a danger to the society and democracy itself.”

Hafiz Saeed
Hafiz Saeed, head of the Pakistani religious party. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

PPP’s acute criticism came as Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), inaugurated the office of his newly launched political party Milli Muslim League (MML) in the eastern city of Lahore.

Pakistan’s Election Commission rejected MML’s party registration application in October, citing its link to Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a U.S. designated terror-sponsoring organization.

But MML looks determined to contest the upcoming state and provincial elections. The party has several offices, has launched a website, and has a social media team spreading its messages through Facebook and Twitter.

Pakistan’s government has repeatedly emphasized it will not tolerate any political party with a proven record of promoting violence and terrorism to use democracy and political means to spread their extreme ideologies.

But critics still say the government is not doing enough to stop radical groups from entering politics.

“Look what happened in Lahore’s recent by-election and who can forget the power show by extremists on the roads of Islamabad. The government was totally helpless,” Raees said.

During the Lahore election in September, a MML backed independent candidate secured the fourth position in the race. The by-election was also contested by Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TeL), another extremist religious party created to carry-on Mumtaz Qadri’s mission, the bodyguard who killed Punjab’s Governor Salman Taseer in 2011 after he had demanded reforms in the controversial blasphemy law. Mumtaz Qadri was later sentenced to death.

Islamic Extremists
Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik party (VOA)

In November, thousands of followers of the Islamist group Tehreek-e-Labaik blocked Islamabad roads for weeks and demanded the resignation of Law Minister Zahid Hamid, after accusing him of blasphemy. The government eventually surrendered to hardliners’ demands after Pakistan’s military played the role of mediator.

The experts say the emerging trend of politicizing militancy is a danger to democracy. They also point out the sectarian and hardline rationale will further complicate the situation in the country that has been trying to combat terrorism for more than a decade.

“Imagine when these hardliners, through political parties, will spread their extreme views on the grassroots level. What will be the future of this country?” Raees said.

But some politicians dismiss the blending of radicalized groups into politics. Haider believes the people of Pakistan can differentiate between politicians and extremists and will not allow militant-turned-politicians to thrive.

“If you look at the past, the religious parties including the Jamaat-i-Islami [an old religious party], despite having a huge following, were never able to clean sweep or get majority in the electoral process of the country,” said Haider.

“Even now, with all these efforts, I believe Milli Muslim League or Tehreek-e-Labaik will not be able to pull large numbers during the general elections. Religious or sectarian votes are scattered in the country and can’t be unified and will not help these newly established political parties to win a prominent number of seats.” VOA